12. THE STRANGER By Albert Camus

This is one of those books which I finished only in two sittings (mostly on a plane). It’s simple and to the point, fast paced, and being quite short also helped.

It starts with Meursault learning about the death of his mother, uncertain of when it happened, and follows as he goes to her funeral. He describes the funeral in a way that is bleak and eerily dissociated, and then that bleakness continues throughout, as he gratuitously kills a guy, right until his death sentence.

Other than a couple of paragraphs, Meursault is apathetic and blasé. The way he was described dealing with his mother’s death, possibly the worst thing anyone could ever go through, is corporeal rather than emotional, using sentences that are monotonous, business-like, and robotic. Whether Meursault is a sociopath or a psychopath, or whether he was battling depression, it’s never mentioned nor is it at all relevant.

What we’re dealing with here is a person who realised that nothing matters, and therefore to have emotions at all e.g. mourning his mother, remorse for murder, love for his girlfriend, it’s all futile. When he was certain he couldn’t take care of his mother, he sent her to a home. It was not the best option in a lot of people’s eyes but having her with him would have ended up being worse for her. He didn’t cry at her funeral, he didn’t fear death, and couldn’t justify killing the guy. The reasons he had for doing anything, and the reasons people have are completely different, because people tend to put meaning to things they didn’t understand in order to feel better — or feel something. 

The book didn’t make sense to me until I finished reading it and thought for a while, and I’m sure once I revisit it years or so from now it would make even more sense. I believe that nihilism as a state of mind is something everyone eventually reaches as they advance through life.



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