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How Strange!!!!
Nov 19, 2005 06:47 PM 3312 Views
(Updated Nov 19, 2005 06:47 PM)

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How Strange!!!!


L’etranger – The Stranger – What sense the name evokes. The protagonist of the novella Mersault is a stranger to the world so familiar and the world is so strange to Mersault. 160 pages- seem like 1600 pages (reading this was an exercise in my French Class – What drab). I wondered why my teacher selected this for reading practice – we read but we never understood then, what this man, Albert Camus was trying to say. But now it looks so meaningful – though the author talks about meaninglessness – There is meaning in meaninglessness – is it not? – How quickly the change sets in.


Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely. That doesn't mean anything. It may have happened yesterday. This is how the story begins. No feelings, no memories, no love. Mersault has no feelings for his Mother – for anybody. Too stoically he thinks his mother could have died yesterday, today or tomorrow - is that such a common thing? This is how he leads his life. He gets attracted to a girl called Cardona, has sex with her and when the girl asks him will he marry her – he says he has no such feelings- but if she insists he will – for him all that is not necessary nor does he feel so. Amidst all this he works – has no ambitions, goes on with his routine meets his friends for no particular purpose. One fine day he murders an Arab because of heat (I am not describing the whole scene). He is taken to prison- then to the court where he is judged – the world he refused to judge- he is found guilty – because the lawyers argue- this man is unfit to live – he has no remorse – the murder was pre-meditated - does not believe in God- After all this he is happy in prison – he knows he will be decapitated – but wants to have chance to live (thinking of this makes him happy). The only person he thinks of in the prison is Cardona. But he is happy to die too.


Absurd to the core- Camus wants to show the absurdity and meaninglessness of life. His existential philosophy is clearly evident here. Mersault is product of his times – this was creation of Camus when Nazism and Fascism were pouting its heads and when the world was becoming more and more mechanical –a kind of I work, I eat I sleep mechanism (Half of the time in the story Mersault sleeps). Every Citizen in such a condition is an “unknown Citizen” – A stranger in his own world – A world which he created. Mersault is half-robot – he’s forgot he is human in the world which he does not understand- he does not know- it is alien in him – he is an outsider and cannot belong here.


Camus should not have read Sartre or Nietzsche – he should have read Tagore- Had he done that he would have loved this world – this life for its mere simplicity. What a contrast World of Tagore is- but Camus cannot be ignored – What he writes is in a sense true- not absolutely. I am reminded of a poem by Auden – Unknown citizen, where he asks us


Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd


Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.


Finally a question: Why Mersault thinks of living (though he is happy to die)? Do answer. May be life appeals to this stranger as well.


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