The Stranger by Albert Camus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is a hard one to review. One one side of the tracks we have the expectation one has when first hearing of Camus, and especially when first hearing of his seminal work "The Stranger." Then on the other side we have what Camus himself believed of his work, a thought that opposed what his work has been regarded as his entire life and long after.
In the view of many, Camus' "The Stranger," is an existentialist masterpiece. The story of is the most ordinary of men who goes through his own life with little feeling about any one thing. When asked if by his girlfriend if he loves her he replies, "I suppose, but it's all kind of pointless."
The questions is this, why is he so apathetic?
Well, in part, this is because Camus dives into the absurd. The average person is lost in their life. They do not know much of what they want and when they are confronted with the absurd, only then do they find that they seek the truth.
So then, why is it that people believe that Camus to be an existentialist akin to his contemporary and friend Satre? Well, this is in part due to a semblance between the thought behind existentialism and absurdism.
With existentialism we see that it is absurd to betray our own morals and sense of self based on what society has deemed to be acceptable. Absurdism finds that these morals placed on us by society to be, well, absurd. The difference is that, while Camus finds these things absurd and explores what the average person experiences during such events, Sartre asserts that to put an end to these things knowledge and truth must be sought and that the simple act of being allows us to transcend our bonds.
So, what is there to say about Camus "The Stranger?" Is it an existentialist masterpiece like many of claimed, or is it the manifesto of absurdism that Camus believed it to be?
While this answer may seem a cop-out of sorts, the fact remains that "The Stranger," is both an essay on absurdism and existentialism, despite what both Camus and Sartre believed. The two philosophies, though coming from different origins, both come the same conclusion. One can not separate the absurd ideas of social morals and doctrines based on a 2,000 year old book from the existential ideals that come along with the disregard of God and the Christian morals that have been so ingrained in our culture.
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