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The Outsider (Essential Penguin) Paperback – 25 Feb 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 180 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (25 Feb. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140274170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140274172
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 1 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 740,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Smith's new version ... treats Camus' text with respect, directness and an unexpected delicateness. She reveals, and permits, an original edgy strangeness in the prose itself; she treats it sensually, listening to Camus' original sentence structures and lengths, and to the rhythmic fall of his prose (Ali Smith The Times) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Albert Camus was born in Algeria in 1913. He studied philosophy in Algiers and then worked in Paris as a journalist. He was one of the intellectual leaders of the Resistance movement and, after the War, established his international reputation as a writer. His books include The Plague, The Just and The Fall and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Camus was killed in a road accident in 1960.

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Mother died today. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although I read this in French, these comments may be useful.

Meursault is a young Algerian `pied-noir' given to observing the world with a clinical detachment. He enjoys a largely physical relationship with his girlfriend Marie who shares his love of swimming and, since Meursault does not judge others, he has an easy, tolerant acceptance of people, including his unsavoury neighbours the aged Salamano, dependent on the pathetic dog which he continually abuses, and the sadistic pimp Raymond.

From the outset there are somewhat chilling indicators of Meursault's unusual and amoral attitude to life. He renews his relationship with Marie and goes to see a comedy film with her the day after attending his mother's funeral. Then, on an afternoon of intense heat, in an almost hallucinatory state of mind, he commits a serious crime for which he appears to feel no remorse.

In the second part of the book largely given over to his very artificial, theatrical trial, we see how Meursault, the outsider, is incriminated as much for how he has behaved in the past - not weeping at his mother's funeral - as for his offence. As he begins to reflect on his situation, we see him in a more sympathetic light.

This famous novel which has attracted a huge amount of attention, may be read on different levels. It could just be the tale, written in clear, minimalist prose, of a man whose lack of 'normal' emotions and values, combined with extreme honesty, seal his fate. On another plane, it illustrates Camus's preoccupation with the absurdity of man's desire for reasons and 'rational behaviour' in a world without meaning.
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Format: Paperback
One of the very few books that I have ended up reading twice, I first came across The Outsider long ago in 1962 when I was 17 and have just revisited it recently with my reading group, extremely curious to know whether the strong impression it originally made upon me would be rekindled.

In the main, it was not. Coming to this novel in adolescence as one of the first `serious' books I had encountered, and just before the social upheavals of the 1960s began, I found the story and fate of Mersault, who could not or would not lie or express the standard emotions that were expected of him, quite shattering of the world in which I had grown up. Over the intervening decades, I carried a memory of Mersault as a noble hero and of the type of society that I had grown up in as a hypocritical conspiracy against the expression of honesty of feeling. As much or more than Kerouac, Ginsberg and Dylan, it was this book that made me a small town, coffee bar existentialist.

On re-reading at a different age and in a different era, I was struck by a number of impressions. Mersault appears less heroic and emptier of human warmth. He tacitly supports his neighbour, a pimp, in his violence towards his girlfriend and the novel hints more at his racism in the motiveless murder of an Algerian on the beach, around which the novel revolves. His patterns of thinking seem now far less idealistic and almost autistic in character.

However, the sense of place and especially the evocation of the heat, sun, sea, the streets of the town, the courtroom and his prison cell remain convincing and beautifully expressed in clear, clean prose.
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Format: Paperback
This is, I think, the fourth translation of Camus' L'Etranger that I've read, as well as the Gallimard paperback in French. The older translations (Gilbert and then O'Brien) now seem a bit dusty and rely too heavily on Americanisms that have a weird vibe of the Steinbeckian way o' talkin' yeah?

Joseph Laredo's translation then appeared some time later and is still the one for me. Sure, there are some minor semantic bumps in Laredo's text but a translator's never - ever - gonna get everything right. Laredo's genius was to get into the mindset of the principal character and take it from there. (Maybe not one for American readers so much. Maybe English has finally forked?)

Most of the spectral pied-noir Gaijin's French is fairly direct but even to this day there's still not been a truly satisfactory translation of the opening and closing sentences of this book into English. Laredo gets closest to a tolerable translation of these.

This edition (translator: Sandra Smith) is alright - but the English in it often doesn't sound the way people speak. Meursault refers to his mum as 'mama' in this - it comes across like one of Elizabeth Windsor's kids. The French 'maman' is mum and mother at the same time: 'mama' is just diddy speak. Almost literally!

This Camus novel is a must-read no matter your translation.
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By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
Having come across this book in Amazon, I read it once again. And was greatly surprised. I had studied Camus's novel in my teens as a school text. All these years later I can see levels of achievement and sophistication to the book that were so beyond me back them.
With the passage of years, and so much more reading behind me, I now appreciate that Camus was writing what French novelists and critics in those days called "romans vers" (hard novels). This is a tale where an everyday person leading their life in gritty urban surroundings is forced by circumstance, and a momentary lapse in their behaviour, to confront a deep moral issue. Matters are complicated because those around them, and the authorities, seriously misinterpret the central character's motives; and if they do grasp what this person was thinking, they are shocked.
So "The Outsider" seriously deserves to be read against other "romans vers" including Simenon's Dirty Snow and The Engagement (New York Review Books), and, perhaps, Robbe-Grillet's The Erasers and Jealousy (Oneworld Modern Classics).
I agree with so much that appears in other readers' comments about this book; yet I can see that Camus was seriously contributing to what was happening in French fiction at the time -- the novel is part of a big conversation, not an isolated piece -- and that others will in turn build on his work.
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