Monday, December 29, 2008

The Stranger by Albert Camus

I read this book years ago, when I first began to explore rationalism, and I liked most of it, except for Camus’ idea that nothing matters and nothing makes any difference. The idea of an afterlife is irrational in my view, but I believe we each create our own meaning and purpose to life. Our lives can be as rich and meaningful as we choose to make them.

For me, the crucial sentence is in the last paragraph on page 122: "For the first time in a long time I thought about Maman. I felt as if I understood why at the end of her life she had taken a “fiance,” why she had played at beginning again. Even there, in that home where lives were fading out, evening was a kind of wistful respite. So close to death, Maman must have felt free then and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her. And I felt ready to live it all again too."

Powerful stuff. Mersault's mother lived her life. Her last years were happy and comfortable. Why should anyone regret that life with tears? As Camus wrote in his posthumously published note books, A Happy Death, “Your duty is to live and be happy.” Profound and deceptively simple.

This is a new translation by Matthew Ward. What I did not know, was that Camus intended to write this novel in “the American style” -- mostly adjective free and a simple subject-verb-object structure. I enjoyed, and had a much better understanding, this time around, and I am glad I read it again as we come to the end of 2008. Five stars

--Chiron, 12/29/08

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