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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 August 2012
The central character of "L'Etranger" is an Algerian, Meursault, who murders an Arab for no clearly specified reason: he is and remains an outsider to society. The novel is in two parts, both grippingly narrated by him in the first person: before and after the killing. The tone - or lack of it - is set in the opening sentences: "Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-etre hier, je ne sais pas." He seems to have no normal human feelings or motives and yet he does form relationships; we are drawn to him because of the lucidity and honesty of his persona and the intriguing nature of his story. When he is sentenced for execution he has a revelation about the true nature of life and then wishes:"Qu'il y ait beaucoup de spectateurs le jour de mon execution et qu'ils m'accueillent avec des cris de haine." Some readers have called it an existentialist work but it can be read on a simpler level: the French is quite easy and could possibly be understood by anyone with GCSE, a dictionary and the desire to learn more of the language; the past tense is the perfect not the past historic. A must for anyone interested in French Literature.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 January 2014
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 Mersault 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 Mersault'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 Mersault, 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. Mearsault's accusers have set up arbitrary conventions and rules by which to judge him, but Mearsault himself, although for a while afraid of death, is able to come to terms with the essential unimportance of everyone's life, regardless of the value accorded to it by others.

It is also interesting to compare the simplicity of this first novel with the complexity and more self-conscious philosophical digressions of one of Camus's last works, `La Chute'. Both culminate in very powerful final sections, and both need to be read more than once to appreciate them. Camus is a little too bleak for me, but definitely worth reading.
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It is a grim novel. The last word is “hate.” And, in part, it concerns the conflict between the Arab and white European worlds. Albert Camus was a “pied-noir,” a French Algerian of European descent. He was their most famous writer, and would win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. This was his first novel, published in 1942 and set in the 1930’s. The title literally means “stranger,” but is often translated as “The Outsider.”

The protagonist is Meursault (the name of a famous wine from the Burgundy region) who requests permission from his boss to attend his mother’s funeral in the town of Marengo (now Hajout), 80 km southwest of his home in Algiers. She had been living in a home for the elderly. Both his decision to place his mother in the home for the elderly (due to limited financial resources) as well his failure to cry at her funeral would mark him as an “outsider,” that is, outside societal norms and an indicator that he refuses to “play the game” (of life). This status would literally have fatal consequences for him. Camus quick, sharp description of the funeral itself reminded me of the pointillism painting technique of Georges Seurat.

Meursault has a clerical job, and seems to be drifting through life, self-absorbed, yet without insight into his condition. His girlfriend is Marie, and there are some delightful scenes at the beach, and swimming in the Mediterranean together, filled with the foam, the sun and the salty water. He agrees that he will marry her, but true to form, states that he does not love her.

Camus details Meursault’s interaction with a couple of the residents in his apartment building, including Salamano, who mistreats his dog, and Raymond, who mistreats his wife, by beating her, claiming that she is “cheating” on him. His wife is Arab. That fact is the critical catalyst for all that will follow. Raymond’s wife’s brother (and a couple buddies) commence to follow Raymond when they go to the beach. Meursault will ultimately shoot and kill one of the (unnamed) Arabs, adding an extra four bullets into his body for good measure, with a different catalyst for his actions: the sun.

The second half of the novel relates to how this plays out in a court of law, with Meursault’s stubborn insistence not to “play the game” dooming him. For example, he proclaims his status as an atheist to a judge who clearly was not. Time and again, Meursault reminded me of the role Tom Courtney played in The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (1962) - MGM Region 2 PAL Import, plays in English without subtitles. Given how often that those in the more powerful position are absolved of their crimes, it was somewhat of an anomaly for Meursault to be convicted. However, the valid argument could be made that Meursault was merely a “foot soldier” of the powerful, and these pawns are occasionally sacrificed.

The French publisher, Actes Sud, has recently published Kamel Daoud’s novel Meursault, Contre-Enquete. It won Goncourt’s award for a first novel. It has also been issued in English as The Meursault Investigation. It tells the story Camus related from the Arab point of view. The two novels are instructive tales for our time. In the spirit of “a butterfly wings flapping in China, causing that tornado in Kansas,” which denotes the long, seemingly random links between cause and effect, what of an Arab woman’s face slapped, in the 1930’s, leading inexorably to the latest terrorist attack in Brussels?

5-stars for Camus’ novel, and his initial insights into the matter.
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on 23 November 2015
Beautifully written, engaging and haunting. A story that lends itself to reflexion and will stay with you long after you have read the last word.
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on 13 August 2013
I firs read this at secondary school for A level and it has always remained a favourite. So, when planning my first visit to France in years, I bought this copy to read in French to see how my language skills hold up. It was remarkably easy to read and enjoyable. Recommended.
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on 6 February 2016
J'aime beaucoup ce livre et la manière dont il a été écrit. Je l'ai lu quatre fois, il a la taille juste pour se mettre dans la poche intérieure de mes manteaux, vestes, etc. Je le prend quand je voyage en train ou avion. Quand j'étais à Paris ce Noël passé, je l'ai lu eux fois en voyageant dedans Paris en train, RER, et métro. Super.
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on 3 July 2015
Reading this in French, in a desperate attempt to improve mine. Luckily the passé composé is used and other tenses which are learnt at a beginner to intermediate level. So could be helpful if you are trying to improve your francais. If not, The cover is pretty and its a nice size so you could just look at it.
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on 6 March 2016
A brilliant book; evocative of place and time. Moving and thought provoking account of protagonist 's actions and interpretation of his thinking. Very interesting to consider his actions from an existentialism / absurdism point of view.
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on 11 December 2013
I love this short, yet powerful psychological and philosophical book. I've read it in English, however since I study french I thought that it would be excellent to go through since I already know the content.
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on 4 January 2011
I am a student learning French and German at A-Level and decided the best way to learn another language (I started at age 11) was to read foreign literature. I can recommend L'etranger to anyone who wants not only to learn or improve their French but to anyone with a passion for literature and for French culture. The ideas are profound but expressed simply and Camus' writing style and his choice of character, narrative technique and setting are perfect.

I'm going to start my course at Oxford University this October studying Modern Languages and I owe a great deal of my success to L'etranger. Definitely a brilliant read!
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