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27 January 2009 @ 10:50 pm
The Outsider, Albert Camus

The above image - courtesy of A Softer World - pretty much sums up this book, in my opinion.

From the blurb, I expected this to be a case of a man who was ostracised for not showing enough emotion at a funeral, and maybe stoned to death. In fact, it was the story of a man who RANDOMLY SHOT A DUDE and, amazingly!, was put on trial for it. I don't believe he 'told the truth at all costs'. I believe he had schizophrenia or a dissociative personality disorder or both. His only emotions were the wrong ones. He deserved to die, if only because in a country with capital punishment, you don't go around fatally shooting people just because the sun is a bit bright today. FAIL.

He'd beaten her till she'd bled. Before that he hadn't used to beat her. "I used to hit her, but sort of affectionately. She'd yell a bit. I'd close the shutters and it'd finish the way it always does. But this time I really mean it. And I don't think I've punished her enough."


So we made our way slowly back and he kept telling me how pleased he was that he'd managed to punish his mistress. I found him very friendly towards me and I thought it was a good moment.

But actually, NO?

asldkfjshlkfjdhaslkjdhalskjdfhaslkjhfsdl. Seriously.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2009:
He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope
The Bostonians, Henry James
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
For Esme - with Love and Squalor, JD Salinger
Current Mood: angryangry
Current Music: budapest // the reindeer section
murklins: readingmurklins on January 27th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
I read this in French for school when I was 17, and I remember finding it a pleasant relief. Our last novel study had been La Symphonie Pastorale which is all about a pastor taking in a blind girl, raising her like another daughter and then falling in love with her. Of course it harps on and on about sin, so it was really lovely to get to read about a guy who shoots another guy dead and then doesn't really feel anything about it one way or the other, and definitely rejects the idea that Christianity or Justice have any bearing on the world at all, aside from humanity's need to make sense of it.

It was a nice read in French, too. The prose was clean. It helps if you are into Existentialist thought, though, otherwise you're not going to get much out of it.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Internet wins at lifescoradh on January 27th, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
Wow, I so didn't even get that much out of it. If he feels a vague regret about it, fine, I just don't understand why he was so dumbassed to kill the man in the first place. Aaaargh.

Yeah, I know nothing about it - as I'm sure is obvious. No more Camus for me, I troth!
murklinsmurklins on January 28th, 2009 12:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's yet another philosophical novel. The plot, such as it is, is there to serve the Ideas. It's not so much that he had a reason for killing him, it's that he didn't see any compelling reason for NOT killing him.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: daisiesscoradh on January 28th, 2009 12:16 am (UTC)
I would have thought 'being killed myself' was a pretty compelling reason, which is why I'm not a philosopher. :D
(Deleted comment)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: white dressscoradh on January 29th, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
You guys all did this in SCHOOL? I am so under-educated it isn't even true.

So, bearing in mind that I didn't get taught this in a class, I just read it - none of that is to the fore of the actual plot. What the book reads as is: dumbass' mother dies, he doesn't care a whole hell of a lot except about the heat (query sunstroke), he has a girlfriend who wants to marry him after three dates wtf, he makes friends with a wife-beater and thinks it's jolly, thus proving his worthlessness as a human being, he shoots a man for no particular reason, and is sentenced to death.


Edited at 2009-01-29 12:01 pm (UTC)
the_merope on January 28th, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
No but wait. Did you hate the character or the book? Or did hating the character make you hate the book?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Bands PATD Ryan vneckscoradh on January 29th, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)
It would be a bit hard to hate any book without hating the characters. Books are characters.
glorafinglorafin on January 28th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
I won't enter into a lengthy debate with you about this, but this is probably my favourite book ever. At the time I read it (17 I think), it summed up everything about how I felt about the world and the terrifying emptiness that life is, ultimately, for an atheist...
And if that makes me a sociopath... so be it. :)

That said, Camus wrote after that other novels (The Plague, mostly) about how it was, after all, possible to find some ways to live that were better, or more fulfilling, than others.

PS : I also wonder if your determination to read many books in a short time and to review them all is not making you too severe. You don't give yourself the time to appreciate the books you're reading. And some books deserve to be sipped slowly, like an old wine. :)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: House: ;( facescoradh on January 29th, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
for an atheist

That is an extremely broad and, I would say, inaccurate brush with which to paint all atheists. I am an atheist and I've never felt terrified about the emptiness of the world. Feeling that way suggests that you think there should be something to fill it, ie, god. Which means you're probably a wannabe religionist who just hasn't found the right god yet.

I also wonder if your determination to read many books in a short time and to review them all is not making you too severe

a) No, I'm just severe in general. It's my nature and my personality.

b) I spent three weeks on Middlemarch and hated it just as severely then. That was six hundred pages long. Are you suggesting I should have spent three weeks reading a 100 page book just to enforce how much I disliked it?

c) If I had tried to 'savour' this, I would not have finished it, and quite frankly I would be ashamed not to finish a 100 page book. What is there to savour? The writing is utterly pedestrian, the characters are uniformally horrible - and inconsistent; psychopaths are characterised by a childhood-up hatred of animals, which whatever his name is failed to demonstrate - the plot was fantastically ludicrious. I'd get more pleasure from reading the back of cereal box.
glorafinglorafin on January 29th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure my grasp of the English language is sufficient for me to start a valid philosophical debate, so bear if you will with some awkward phrasing.

I do think that atheists can only see their own being in life as some sort of freak chemical accident that makes no sense at all. I suppose some people will find that to be terrifying, others will find it hilarious funny, others still just a mild inconvenience, easily forgotten when there's something good on the telly. Still, atheists can only begin to look at what life is by feeling lost and lacking purposes. 'The Outsider' is painting that stage in the intellectual awakening that is at the core at Camus' "philosophie de l'absurde". Meursault is not a likeable character, and he wasn't intended to be one. His tale is just a way to make the reader think about what exactly makes you an outsider or what makes you part of society.

Later, Camus tried to show that this stage of indifference and anomy should only be temporary, a first step which should after a few months/years lead to people finding in themselves some incentive to live their life "fruitfully" or "morally", the whole problem being to define what is "fruitful" or "moral" when you can't rely on what a 2000-year old book says.

That said, you're perfectly allowed to have been left unmoved by the way Camus tells that story. But, personally, I would think twice before writing or saying in public that an universally recognized and celebrated book is an old load of bollocks. It must be that I am an intellectual wuss and lack confidence in my views. :)

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Discworld: Death of Ratsscoradh on January 29th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
My grasp of philosophy is not sufficient to start a philosophical debate, so we're even.

Firstly, I'd like to apologise for my tone in the previous comment. I was really angry and upset today - all week, really - and I suppose this was the last straw - mainly because you're right. I have been reading things too fast, not out of a competitive spirit but because there's SO MUCH MORE OUT THERE that I want to read as well, right now. So, sorry for that.

But, personally, I would think twice before writing or saying in public that an universally recognized and celebrated book is an old load of bollocks

lol, my book glomp has been NOTHING but that. I don't know if you've read any of my other 'reviews', but you should - no one is safe. I don't think a book has critical immunity for the reasons you've just listed. On the other hand, I'll readily admit that I'm a pleb, undereducated and absolutely ignorant about the fine details of literature. However, that doesn't make my opinion invalid. (imo)
glorafinglorafin on January 30th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
No, it's me who feels like I have to apologize. You're obviously entitled to your own opinion, as is anyone. I just wanted to try to explain a little bit why that book has obsessed me for years, hoping that maybe it could make you look back at it with a new angle.

But if you still feel the book is awful, I promise I won't think any less of you. :)

Ps : I've read you other posts about books and I did notice that they were more often than not less than complimentary. But I didn't know most of the other books you read (Garcia Marquez excepted) so I never thought to butt in before now.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: ra teapot and coloured cupsscoradh on January 30th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
There was no need for me to be so rude about it, though. I'm glad you're not mad. As for the book, well. There are several Camus in the library (hee, and I found out it's Camoose, not Camuss, as I was saying), so I'll be giving him another go - I appreciate the shortness of his novels. You never know!

They are nearly always less than complimentary. :D This is a fact.