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84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does this book still pack the same ethical and philosophical punch it once did?
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and have just revisited it recently with my reading group, extremely curious to know whether the strong impression it originally made upon me would be rekindled.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...
Published on 23 Feb 2009 by Andy Miller

versus
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars superfluous new translation?
'Readers may wonder why a new translation is necessary', says translator Sandra Smith of this book.

They may indeed. If the original can be allowed to date, why cannot the translation? Where original and translation are of widely different dates - eg Victorian translations of medieval texts - there might be a good case for updating; but surely not for a novel...
Published 19 months ago by gille liath


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84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does this book still pack the same ethical and philosophical punch it once did?, 23 Feb 2009
By 
Andy Miller (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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and have just revisited it recently with my reading group, extremely curious to know whether the strong impression it originally made upon me would be rekindled.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. Mersault's world view and his in-the-moment limited expectations still engaged me as a study of character, but less as an existential pioneer and martyr and more as an unreflective and mildly hedonistic individual.

I would still strongly recommend this book for its historical importance. Written during the second world war when Camus was fighting in the French Resistance, I first read it in early 1960s when publicly departing from the standard loyalties to school, church and state still felt like a dangerous undertaking. The book will now be judged by first-time readers against the mores of present times, times which have been fashioned by myriad forces including, as an early artistic tour de force, this novel.

My grading is an amalgam of my original and my current impressions - I hope this book continues to provoke and be appreciated.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary perfection, 12 Feb 2001
Though I hate being so unoriginal, I can only repeat what everyone else has said here: this book, along with Sartre's 'Nausea' represents a defining moment in Twentieth century culture. The two books - although by different authors - should be read as a pair, though strictly that 'pair' could be extended to take in another half dozen books without much trouble. (e-mail me if you want to know which ones - though my guess is you already know, or have probably already read them.)
I last read this book from cover to cover in my teens (many years ago) but I think of it, and 'Nausea' almost every day.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On trial for the death of his mother, 9 April 2000
By A Customer
Camus explores the values of a nation through the death of an old lady and the subsequent behaviour of her son, both at the funeral and afterwards.
This book leaves one wondering about so many things: How can things that seem normal in one sense be totally objectionable and abnormal when placed in a different context. One can finally both understand Mersault's justification for commiting a crime without apparent reason and yet, at the same time, why the jury find him guilty of not "playing the game" - not being prepared to lie to cover up human weakness.
Fascinating - even better in the original French language. Some of the nuances are lost in the English translation but still ranks as an all time great!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing translation, 29 Nov 2012
I've read a few versions and translations of the The Outsider (in several languages) and this one is this by far the best. It manages to keep the voice of the character true to his nature and at the same time gives it a modern ring. All his thoughts and reflections were beautifully transcribed into English, which isn't easy with a narrator such as Meursault. This translation made me see something new about the novel and I strongly recommend it. Also, in the preface I read that the translator listened to a original reading by Camus to help her understand the nuances of his tone and meanings, which was pretty interesting!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lumen abs expedio infernum, 30 Jun 1999
By A Customer
"Understanding comes from the freeing fire."
It has not been a lot that I read a book and cannot sleep after finishing it!
This book is for the person who finds himself an 'outsider' in the social dorm. To me it has shown that 'not knowing' things does not neccesarily mean you must stop living. That is when living starts. Unfortunately society puts roadsigns everywhere. Distrust in the inner voice grows from this and follows with an almost robotic belief in a 'dark' world where we need a 'light'(or sign) to show us where to put the next foot. The book free's you from your own entrapment and shows you what living really means!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful...but why this cover?, 26 Sep 2009
I love this book. I first read it when I was about twenty, and was blown away. At a time when I was wrestling with my own feelings, the idea that someone could be honest about his lack of emotions was staggering. On re-reading it years later, I find it flawed (is Mersault really being consistent?) but still brilliant.

However, I have a problem with this edition. The premise is that Mersault is a perfectly acceptable, sociable, young man about town. He just happens not to love his mother very much and is honest enough not to lie about it - this is why it is such a challenging book. However, someone at Penguin has chosen to publish it with a cover illustration of a drooling psychopath, which is utterly at odds with the text, and will give readers completely the wrong preconceptions. Hadn't they read the book?
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41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Camus' finest work, and one of the best books ever written., 9 April 2000
By A Customer
"The Outsider" is probably the most wonderful book that Algerian genius Albert Camus ever wrote, drawing in theories from "The Rebel" and "The Myth of Sisyphus" as well as existentialist ideas from the likes of Sartre into a blistering indictment of human society.
Meursault, a bachelor, living in Algiers, leads a completely unremarkable life until he finds himself committing an act of violence. A man who is incapable of lying, in any sense of the word, his response challenges all of the absurd values which society holds to be fundamental. Meursault's responses to the law, religion and society shake at the very heart of what traditionalists hold to be morally correct.
Incredibly readable, no book will change your way of thinking quite like this one. It says so much for Camus' incredible skill as a prose reader that the book manages to strike the reader so much in such a short and digestable length. Joseph Laredo's translation is superb, this book is fantastic - buy it and read it, over and over again.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth, 21 July 2004
By A Customer
In 'The Outsider' Camus exposes the way in which the world rejects the truth and is unable to empathise with the feelings of those 'outsiders' who do not conform to their moral code.
Meursault's refusal to act out the feelings of remorse and grief - his refusal to lie - no matter what the consequences is what makes the character so real and the book such a compelling and satisfying read.
I'd recommend this book because the questions raised by it go beyond the confines of the story and it asks us if we really want to know the truth and if honesty really is the best policy.
Gives pause for thought - always a good thing!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splt skies and shattered harmonies, 29 Aug 2012
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
In Camus's L'Etranger you have the absurd murder and you have the official murder,you have lived experience,and the official account of that experience,the inadequacy of language and the absurdity of the world.Meursault is the poor man stripped naked who lives in the present,for the here and now with intensity,immediacy, spontaneity, pleasure and happiness.He does not sacrifice the pleasures of today for an imaginary future or another world.The words `guilt' and `sin' mean nothing to him,the language of the court and the chaplain,the word `love' likewise is something he doesn't understand.He has a lucidity and awakening in the presence of the imposed sentence of the court,in the presence of death,that he is fundamentally happy.The murder he committed is understandable if not excusable,it happened by chance;but the judicial crime of execution is inexorable,put in place by social mechanisms that pay no heed to Meursault's feelings,that commit rational murder.It was human justice-for not crying at his mother's funeral-that had condemned him not divine justice.Mersault says he did wrong and was paying for it and there was nothing more that could be asked of him,he won't feel remorse nor guilt,nor believe in God.

The story's opener is one of the all time classic openers:"Maman died today,or maybe yesterday,I don't know".The climax of the novel is the best ever written:"The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave; I felt the smooth underside of the butt; and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, is where it all started. I shook off the sweat and sun. I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I'd been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness".The cruelty in the heart of nature animates Meursault.This is a tragedy of Sophoclean intensity.The narrative has the incarnation of a myth to give testimony of his strangeness,the strange enigma of truth,his admissions as shocking as they are reserved.His attitude to life of non-attachment,looking from the outside,death only rouses him to a passionate outburst,it doesn't awaken him to genuine self-hood.

Camus somehow through the use of lyrical writing gets the reader to think, when Meursault kills the Arab on the beach,he is somehow not guilty,it was chance,the trigger gave way,it was because of the sun,the sun glinting on the knife,the heat makes Meursault shoot as a reflex action,then shoot four more times into the dead body.Camus stresses in the first part the banalities and routines of existence,the social pantomime of funerals,marriages, wakes. He seems to exhibit no feelings of empathy, grief, or love in situations in Part 1 of the story.Then in the second part is the parody of the trial,a real fiasco,where what seems to be on trial was Meursault's character.He is a "stranger", not caring what society expects from him,wanting to be greeted with cries of hatred at his execution.On the social fringes of existence which Meursault inhabits,"he laid himself open to the benign indifference of the world".Can any individual alone give meaning to the absurdities of the world or needs he to absorb the social structures of his world and the historical sequence of which he is a product?Camus writing has learned the simplicity of Hemingway's prose.What is missing is the subtext:the plight of the Arabs.We know Camus felt their mistreatment in the colonialist set-up in Algeria.That a French Algerian would probably have been acquitted of the murder.Instead Camus doesn't name the Arabs but he does have Meursault facing death by guillotine. 'But one must do "as if"',Camus(The Myth of Sisyphus).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First masterpiece from Albert Camus; L'Étranger (1942), 29 Feb 2008
The Outsider was first published in Paris in 1942 and would cement it's author's reputation as one of the most intelligent and imaginative writers of the 20th century. It also remains one the best introductions to the realm of existentialist literature - or that so-called sub-genre they dubbed the philosophical novella - in that it combines certain theoretical ideas that were established in the early writings of Jean-Paul Sartre (particularly his novel Nausea and his short story collection, Le Mur) with a more defined sense of narrative, character and attitude towards politics and morality. Because of this, the story is simplified to the point of non-existence, as J.G. Ballard notes in his personal blurb (surmised on the back of the Penguin Classics publication) "it's the story of a beach murder... blood and sand" which, despite giving away a central plot point of the book, destroys none of the tension or emotional connection that we feel for the central character.

It is Camus' genius in pruning the story down to a bare minimum of scenes and supporting characters that gives the book any social or philosophical weight; with the ramifications of the act and the underlining attitude of our protagonist Meursault defining the crux of the book's theoretical debate over notions of narrative unfolding, etc. The slightness of actual narrative (and I use this term lightly, since many great books have needed very little in the way of story to entrance a reader) and the fact that at a mere 118 pages it remains one of the shortest works of fiction, will no doubt alienate many potential readers; which to me, is a great shame. Camus knows that it is the simplicity of the story and the matter-of-fact way in which he uses his prose to detail this bland everyday existence of our "hero" that will elevate his plight come the closing chapters of the book. In this respect, it reminded me very much of Kieslowski's masterpiece A Short Film About Killing, in that we are introduced to this character who, although warm and to some degree capable of love and tenderness (particularly here, if we look at his various relationships throughout the book with Raymond, Marie, even old Salamano, et al), is withdrawn from the world around him and lost within the trivialities of existence; the sun, the beach and the waves.

Camus argument, paraphrased in his after word as the mere notion that "...any man that doesn't cry at his mother's funeral is liable to be condemned to death" acts as a blistering indictment of the judicial system of 1940's Algiers (in the same way that Kieslowski's afore-mentioned film lamented early-80's Poland), as well as the notion of atheism (lets not forget that Sartre described existentialism as "the attempt to draw all the consequences from a position of consistent atheism"), mortality and the importance of fact in the eyes of those that bend the truth to suit their own view of life, seen through the eyes of a character who is so removed from the world around him that he is incapable of bending the truth, even if the truth will only incriminate him further within the misdeeds of the past. Camus book remains as intelligent and relevant today as it did back in 1942, and offers the reader an enticing theoretical parable, relating to the notions of the social and historical unjust.

The writing throughout is atmospheric, and captures the plight of our narrator Meursault, with whom me share a combination of sadness, empathy, pity and remorse. As Ballard points out in his brief summation, this is one of the century's classic novels, which, in my opinion, deserves to be experienced by as many people as possible.
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The Outsider (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Outsider (Penguin Modern Classics) by Albert Camus (Paperback - 31 Oct 2013)
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