Sunday, December 2, 2007

THE STRANGER by Albert Camus

Camus is here proponing his absurdist theory, as something of a counterpoint to existentialism. The amoral main character, Meursault has a short attention span and an utterly lazy approach to life – not that he doesn't work hard, but that it doesn't make any difference to him what happens. His catchphrase is that things and events are "of so little importance." "It's common knowledge that life isn't worth living, anyhow," is what gets him through the day.

The novel begins as Meursault's mother dies, and then takes us through his daily activities, culminating in a rather inexcusable murder. The second half of the novel traces Meursault's trial.

Ultimately, Meursault rejects God repeatedly, although it certainly didn't help that the minister (along with the one other Christian in the novel) is something of a buffoon, and has a very poor approach. Meursault is content to put his fate in the hands of "the benign indifference of the universe."

Considering the implications of some of these philosophies, it remains baffling to me that some people are content to die and then to cease to exist. Put another way, some people have so little regard for their own existence. Certainly both existentialism and absurdism are anti-Christianity in this and many other aspects.

The novel has a little trouble getting out of the blocks, but it picks up nicely and it's a quick read. Ultimately, the degree to which one enjoys this book is dependent on how one feels about its philosophies.