The Outsider by albert camus

A very short novel about a man’s indifference towards his mother’s death. His indifference was used as a reason to behead him after he kills a man (accidentally, out of self-defense)

It is a very short novel that reads so clearly that it really shows the work of a true master.

In a book set with a first-person narrator, we are often met with descriptors of feelings because often there is nothing else to go on. but even with a character that’s mostly indifferent to the things and people around him (Camus explains that he’d rather not lie, that he’s not indifferent), his feelings at the moment were fully conveyed, and his indifference was astute.

the scene that I thought was most obvious in pointing out what i wrote above is the scene right before his death. the character is in his cell, waiting for his beheading, a chaplain came to talk to him about God. Because he doesn’t believe in God, he found the chaplain’s visit unnecessary and even more so annoyed with him.

In a situation like that, perhaps the more appropriate reaction is to want to find god as to find peace within self of having to deal with capital punishment. Even if you don’t believe in god, at that time, i can’t imagine that there is anything else to do. But instead, the character not only stayed with his disbelief of God and even found the chaplain to be annoying because he said he didn’t want to waste any more time talking about God.

interesting to say the least i guess.

so, what we feel, is it honestly what we feel? or is it a over-ride function of what we are supposed to feel to fit into society’s norm?


page 44: He intended to set up an office in Paris to handle that side of the business on the spot by dealing directly with the big companies and he wanted to know if I was prepared to go over there. I’d be able to live in Paris and travel around for part of the year as well. “You’re a young man, and I imagine that sort of life must appeal to you.” I said yes but really I didn’t mind. He then asked me if I wasn’t interested in changing my life. I replied that you could never change your life, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t at all dissatisfied with mine here. He looked upset and told me that I always evaded the question and that I had no ambition, to which was disastrous in the business world. So I went back to work. I’d rather not have upset him, but I couldn’t see any reason for changing my life. come to think of it, I wasn’t unhappy. When I was a student, I had plenty of that sort of ambition. but when I had to give up my studies, I very soon realized that none of it really mattered.

page 66: We both sat back in our chairs. the examination began. He told me first of all that people described me as being taciturn and withdrawn and he wanted to know what I thought of that. I answered, “it’s just that I never have much to say, So I keep quiet.”

page 78

I hadn’t understood how days could be so long and short at the same time. Long to live through I suppose, but so distended that they ended up flowing into one another. they lost their names. The words yesterday and tomorrow were the only ones that still meant something to me.

Posted: February 29th, 2012
Categories: BOOKS, QUOTES
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