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There was a time a few years ago when I would read 2 or 3 books at a time. A friend of mine had asked me at that time if that wasn't difficult...to juggle through genres, stories and characters? I didn't find it difficult. I was so impatient that every time a story bored me, I would move to another book, and then return to the other one, my boredom forgotten.
These days though it's not boredom that compels me to read more than one book at a time - a combination of a library membership, a constantly shuffling life where I stay in one place on weekdays and at home on weekends has made it easy for me to fall back on this old habit. And that is how I finished the classic Albert Camus absurdist novel - The Stranger. I confess that I had held myself back from reading this - Camus is not easy to read, other friends warned, and certainly not to be read if you are ferreting in the burrows of despair as I am occasionally known to do. But there is a time for all - and this was the time to tune myself into Meursault's often indifferent yet never anything less than powerful narrative.
Is there any point in giving a review of a book that would take a book to review? The depth of meaning that Camus invests in this novel is often lost such is the dry mundane tone that Meursault invests his story with. Indifference is often the most absurd of all emotions, pretending to be an emotion that doesn't feel. Yet how can it not? It's the most scathing of all emotions.
Perhaps the quote that throws this spear of indifference the most was this:
As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the benign indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with howls of execration."The canons of absurdist literature are vast and deep - and there is nothing more than I can say of the 'story' behind The Stranger apart from that Meursault kills an Arab, for no reason (well, it was too hot that day), and the series of events that lead to his conviction. Is there a meaning to the book? Camus may well be asking is there a meaning to life? Is it worth pursuing even the sense of absurdity? Meursault was frustrating - I often felt like throwing my dumbbells at him, willing him to show some emotion, but then I thought isn't he a beautiful representation of what we all do at some point of time or the other? We wear our indifferent masks...but Meursault is more than that - his is not a mask, it is the truth. And that is the horror of it all.
Verdict: A classic that deserves to be read.