Camus’ The Stranger

Albert Camus’ The Stranger is one of the more representative existentialist novels of the twentieth century. It is a bare story of an empty life, a self immolated by both self and society, a relentless and disturbing portrait of alienation. The protagonist is the solitary as conceived by society, the very image of the solitary that the world wants and expects: indifferent, lacking convictions, without time, love, or conscience.

These words of the protagonist in prison strike an ironic tone, presented as evidence, perhaps, of madness, like all the other behaviors the jury will scrutinize about the protagonist. And yet the words could be those of a hermit of legend.

I’ve often thought that had I been compelled to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but gaze up at the path of the sky just overhead, I’d have got used to it by degrees. I’d have learned to watch for the passing of birds or drifting clouds …