It’s a strange time these days. In lockdown, people get disconnected from the world and the people around them. They might become a stranger to others, but also to themselves. Other people are a mirror of who you are. It’s the perfect time to fall into existentialism. That’s why I read this book. The Stranger is the ultimate existential novel. This novel is where all the other existential novels got their idea from and Albert Camus does it wonderfully.
The Stranger is about a man called Meursault (you never read his first name). He works somewhere (you never know where) and he has an odd view on life. Life is meaningless for him. Not in a negative way where one might despair, but just in the neutral way. Life just has no meaning and that’s just how it is. Because life has no meaning Meursault is brutally honest. When his (girl)friend Marie asks him if he wants to marry her, he says yes. But when she afterwards asks if he would say yes to everyone, he also replies with a neutral yes. Still, no one can cope with the attitude of Meursault.
At one point he kills a stranger, not with any intention but it just happened. He gets arrested and he is put on trial. No one can understand how he can feel so numb to the killing. No one can understand Meursault and he gets bored by everyone in the trial. Life has no meaning and killing someone doesn’t have meaning as well. It is only when he is sentenced to death that he might truly feel alive.
The Stranger is not the man that Meursault has killed. It is Meursault himself. He is a stranger to everyone becomes no one can understand him and everyone is a stranger to him because what is the point of knowing people? When everything is meaningless why should you care about other people. But this has a mystery which draws people to you. This book captures that perfectly.
If you want to feel some existential dread during this time of a pandemic, start reading this book. I am reading the Plague from Camus at the moment. I thought it would be a good moment to start reading it, being in quarantine because of a virus. It is only when things look meaningless that you can find meaning.