The Stranger is Albert Camus’s first novel. Originally written and published in French and first published in an English translation for the first time in 1946.
The Stranger is the story of Meursault, an ordinary man who inadvertently and actually somewhat meaninglessly ends up committing a murder on sun-drenched Algerian beach. And through the story of Meursault, Camus examines what he called the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.
The English translation that I ended up reading of The Stranger was by Matthew Ward.
The story of The Stranger is apparently very simple and unsophisticated. Meursault’s mother has died and though for some time there did not exist any meaningful bond between them Meursault attends her funeral. On his return from his mother’s funeral, to Algiers, he meets a girl where he goes swimming, takes her to watch a comic movie and after that a love affair begins between them. Passively he accepts the advances and friendship of Raymond, another man living nearby, and this association concludes in the murder of an Arab on the beach.
At the trial his behavior is described by the prosecutor as that of a callous, hardened criminal who has also linked with objectionable people. He is declared guilty and sentenced with decapitation. When asked to rationalize his action, he said that the shooting was because of the sun, producing in turn a snigger in the courtroom.
The prison chaplain goes to see him against his wishes as Meursault awaits execution. Meursault is eventually budged out of his apathy by the chaplain’s mind-set, as he identifies the irrelevance and the triviality of the chaplain’s professed confidence and certainties, and the ideas that he endorses:
Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me. I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart, cries of anger and cries of joy. He seemed so certain about everything, didn’t he? And yet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman’s head. He wasn’t even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man.