Monday, October 27, 2014

Book 58- The Stranger

Book 58 is The Stranger by Albert Camus. The picture to the left is the cover of the hideous thrift store version of the novel that I read from! I had no idea what to think about the novel because I only knew so much about Camus (mostly that he was tied to the Existential philosophy) and nothing about the novel itself. I started the book in high spirits and totally over estimated my ability to plow through novels at a fast pace. I read the first 70 pages at the beginning of the month and then spent the remainder of the month reading the novel 2666 thinking I would have tons of time to read both... I almost didn't make it.

I found The Stranger extremely easy to read and accomplished the task in only two days of actual reading. Throughout the majority of the novel I was reminded heavily of The Trial by Kafka who was one of Camus's influences so this is not surprising. With Mersault's ambivalence with the world the novel has the same confusing feel that The Trial has. In both novels the world feels like it doesn't make sense. The main difference is that while the protagonist in The Trial doesn't understand the world, the protagonist in The Stranger doesn't care about the world. I didn't like the protagonist in this book. I found him callous and uncaring and vaguely sociopathic. He is devoid of feeling and his apathy at his mother death, ends up being his downfall.

I used to identify with the Existential philosophy in university where I first learned about it in a psychology class. I liked the fact that existentialists embraced the inability to know for certain what the world was about. Even as a Christian who holds to some truths strongly, I identified with the idea that meaning is created by each person individually. Seeing the outworking of the philosophy identified in one character, however, I see I only identify with it to a point. While Mersault was fully alive in every moment he was unable to put himself in another's shoes and he was certainly not able to comprehend the consequences of his actions without a great deal of thought.

This novel was not at all what I expected. It is also one of about 6-10 novels that are on The Novel 100 list, but not on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. I am always curious about the differences between the two lists, but in this case I am satisfied that the larger list made the right choice. I will be curious to read the other novels by Camus on the 1001 list to see if I have a similar reaction to them, but at this point he will not jump to the top of my favourites list.

The other day I was flipping through my former blog posts and realized that I have been working on this list since sometime in August 2010. That means I have been plugging away at this challenge I have set for myself for over 4 years. I looked at the remainder of the list and realized I still have 3.5 years left to go if I continue to read books at my current pace of 1 book a month! This is definitely a long term commitment that I have gotten myself into. Despite all books I have had to slog through I am very grateful that I started this challenge. It has expanded my horizons hugely and I have stumbled upon many unexpected favourites! I would highly recommend that people work through someone else's list of books even if you don't think you will like them.

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