There are books that are earmarked as “must reads” by most readers around the world. There are Authors who are considered to be legends. Sometimes these must reads are everything you expect them to be. Sometimes these books disappoint so much, you question your own choices. I have disliked more of these “must reads” than liked them. Perhaps my taste is queer; perhaps I come from a smaller group of people who have their own preferences much against what most people like. Here is one such book that was a rage amongst readers around the world.
The copy I own is a Vintage International edition with simple black and white lines radiating out. Another perspective would be that these lines are converging up, jagged ends heading towards a common point. The cover itself is simple and doesn’t reveal anything about the plot to the reader. However, after reading, I realised that perhaps- this simple black and white pattern shows the way the protagonist thinks, it’s straightforward and twisted just the same. Sometimes it seems like simple black and white thoughts originating from his mind. And some instances made me feel like they were sharp lines shooting at my very logic.
Meursault is a young man who has a girlfriend and his neighbour is also his friend. The book also talks about his mother who plays an important part in the book. His neighbour draws in more characters who are key characters who dictate the proceedings of the plot. Apart from this there is another neighbour of Meursault, his colleague and his boss.
The book is set along the Algerian beach. It opens with a death that plays a pivotal role in the book. Meursault is a young man going about his job and spending his youth enjoying the usual thrills as most youth do. He is then invited over by his neighbour, and made a judge of a certain event that occurs in his life. This is the beginning of a friendship that later embroils Meursault in another death. The second half of the book deals with his arrest, his time in the prison and his trail in the Court.
One of the reasons why The Stranger is such an important book happens to boil down to it’s impeccable translation. Most often the essence of the book is lost in translation. Sometimes, the emotions are not as impactful as the original script, but apparently this book is a perfect example of how a book should be translated. The thought process of the protagonist is so well laid out that you are completely wrapped in it. It is abrupt and yet draws you in. It is appealing in the most absurd ways and I think the writing and the language used plays a massive role in how the book makes the reader feel.
Firstly the character building is just brilliant. Secondly, it is a book that has a strong grip on the reader while you are reading it and also while you are not. All books that we read are constantly putting us in the shoes of the characters in it, they are not so subtly asking us questions, they are making us think as what our course of action would be in those very situations. Meursault is somewhat disconnected, he comes off as a cold and emotionless person but yet has a deep sense of morale. Both these ideas are quite contradictory and to be dominating in one person is a quite sight to see. While you agree with his choices based on his moral values, you are also astounded by his heartlessness. How can someone like this exist? Is he right? Is he wrong? The answers suddenly become obscure as the lines between right and wrong are blurring away quickly.
This book is strange on so many levels. It is absurd and enticing. Right from the very nature of Meursault, to his actions, to the consequences and how his life plays out- everything leaves you a little dumbfounded. I assumed that as I read this book, I am slowly getting into the mind of the protagonist. But how wrong I was for he continues to be a stranger. He is nothing like anyone you’ve ever read about before. While his moral reasoning is quite on point, his analysis makes you want to shake him up and show him how wrong he is. Yes, contradicting I know, but that’s just what the book does to you.
Whom do I recommend this to
A book as strange and as brilliant as this needs to be read by every booklover there is.
“Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.”
“I realized then that a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored”
“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.”
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