on 10 October 2002
Although this is one of Camus' less accessible books, the simplicity of style and striking ideas make it a good read and worthwhile trying. His depiction of the women with whom he spent his ideal existence is lively. Likewise the sense of creeping despair that plays on the main character. Unfortunately, the plot itself does not hold many surprises and in truth the early chapters are the highlights of this book, especially the opening of the book with its thematic similarity to "The Outsider." Worth reading for its highlights - especially for fans of Camus - but less memorable than other stunning books of his.
on 21 February 2003
A work of wonderful existentialist beauty, can one die a happy death its central theme. This early work embodying an early draft of the 'Outsider' follows Mersault in the exploration of this dark theme through crafted narrative that the reader can treasure in solace. We are all going to die, so is worry a futile sentiment that burdens us all?
on 21 August 2015
This book is really good. It serves as a precursor to arguably, his most famous work: The Outsider. Exploring similar themes such as, existentialism, life and dealing with death. The book is very engaging, in that the character experiments with different ways of life and thus changing settings. Camus' description of Algiers is excellent and his ability to get inside the narrator's head is exceptional. As this was an early, unfinished work it can feel a bit choppy and you can see why he revised this story into what would become The Outsider. However, it is an excellent novel. Would definitely recommend for fans of Camus.
on 18 October 2015
It's an incredible book...not quite as pitch black as The Outsider but a sunnier postcard from French existentialism. Some of the sentences are superb: "bubbles of oxygen" sticks in the mind, as joy percolates through the central characters. Not as well-known as The Outsider, but a wonderful primer.
A Happy Death is Camus' first attempt at The Outsider,its the chrysalis and matrix of the later book. In it Patrice Mersault thinks in terms of Time Lost and Time Gained with money rather than madeleines to effect that transition. There is a murder,planned rather than spontaneous,to come upon the happiness he seeks,whose vehicle is the will to happiness. As in The Outsider,there are two parts:the life before and a life after, where a happy life leads to a happy death in a world that is absurd.In Part 1 of both novels we get a good idea of Camus' early life in the working class area of Belcourt as a shipping clerk.
I think that the writing in Happy Death is less organised than in The Outsider,but it is livier and fresher and seems more autobiographical and depicts a lot more of Camus' lived life.It sets out its stool,has an agenda:how to get happiness? Get money to buy the time that can cultivate happiness.Because it's more of a willed performance, the structure is more improvised and awkward and deliberate but you don't get the excisions of The Outsider, where the information surrounding the characters has been stripped away and it becomes mysterious and portentous.The character of Mersault seems more human in A Happy Death, and we don't get the darkness of 'the arabs' or 'killing an arab' which makes Camus' position closer to the French colonists.In A Happy Death, isn't he more of the working class l'homme moyen sensuel, hedonistic, believable,still able to murder,but the murder has a lighter tone to it and has a purpose,possibly aided by the victim,Roland Zagreus.
This book,published after his death in 1972 is hardly ever spoken of.The book deserves to be better known. Incidently, there is a gain in impersonality in The Outsider and the reason given for the murder is the heat of the sun,the glint of the sun on the blade etc. I think Camus is consciously taking the character,Meursault,into the realms of myth and away from human psychology.The man appears colder than Patrice, towards women,love, marriage,his mother's death, as if he's become an instrument of the gods.Although Camus(I don't think)doesn't ever mention Proust in his writing,he utlizes Time Lost and Time Gained.However he has no `time' for the involuntary memory which Proust uses to access lost time.
In both novels Mersault is in revolt against society's norms and commits a murder a la Raskolinkov in both. However, Patrice gets away with the murder and is able to realize his desires.Meursault(The Outsider) dies for the truth to his feelings, which challenge bourgeois hypocrisy,shown in the court scenes in Part 2. Where The Outsider depicts the fate society metes out to an honest individual, A Happy Death asks what it truly means to be alive.It maybe Camus' Stephen Hero, which was the book Joyce set aside to write The Portrait ot the Artist as a Young Man. In both writer's later books there is an increase in the mythology and martyrdom of the lone individual.The Outsider is more contentious in its treatment of the Moors who are not mentioned in A Happy Death.Zagreus(from Greek mythology torn apart by the Titans) could be the Christ figure, whereas in The Outsider,Meursault becomes "the only Christ we deserve"(Camus).Then,the name Patrice is dropped,just as Jesus just became known as 'Christ'. Mersault becomes Meursault.A Happy Death is interesting to read if you know The Outsider and shows the transition Camus went through from budding writer,full of untested ideas,to the fully mature,experienced novelist sloughing off trivia and likeability,to become the hardened artist.