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Tales of Ordinary Madness
Charles Bukowski
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Italo Calvino

The Stranger

The Stranger - Albert Camus,  Matthew    Ward The Stranger felt awkwardly familiar. No, this isn't just a play on words.

My first book by Camus was The First Man. Up until then, I have not read a single Camus book. Nevertheless, while reading The Stranger, I felt an awkward familiarity with the text. And then I realized what it was - it was the way he wrote. The use of first-person narrative which pulls the reader in while using fragments to show that the protagonist was actually unaffected by the events causing his hardship. I realized that I write in a very similar way.
Is it possible that Camus influenced me before I read him? Quite frankly, yes. Over the past three decades I've read countless books by many authors so it is absolutely plausible that Camus influenced one of them, which in turn influenced me. But this review is about Camus.

Aside from feeling awkwardly familiar, The Stranger touched a nerve in me. What nerve, I cannot begin to tell you. The story itself is rather simple, yet the character so complex. Viewed as detached, almost immoral by his peers, he simply views himself as a man who should not speak unless he has something to say. Moreover, he does not have much to say neither during his prosecution, nor in his life before his trial. A man who realizes the absurdity of his surroundings, a man who wants to partake no part in the mad race civilization bestows upon us. I immediately fell for the protagonist.
What I liked about him was the fact that he knows himself, he is content with himself. He mostly makes very rational choices during his journey, yet he makes a few irrational ones (and who doesn't). His observations on society are point on, yet he allows himself to be dragged into situations he does not have to be in, such as being witness for Raymond. But most of all, he just wants to be left alone, to live his life his own way. Those around him and those who enter his world, however, do not want him to. The demands placed upon him, whether by Raymond, his boss, his lawyer, or even Marie, prevent him from doing just that. Sadly, the core of the story (no, not the crime, but his own inner perception and monologue) is often repeated everywhere around us.
When I see Meursault, I see a quiet man who knows what is what and when there is no point in trying to keep appearances. He knows his world and is comfortable in it, yet the world does not want him to be there. They all want him to do something unnecessary, something pointless. By giving in, he allows himself to be dragged into conversations, disputes, and emotions he clearly does not need.
I fell in life with the protagonist because he appears real. Perhaps by reading The First Man first, I was able to realize how many autobiographical events Camus used in the stranger, which, in turn, made him more real to me. It is clear that Camus wrote from his heart, and wrote about what he knew. The same detachment that surfaces in The First Man is clearly visible here, even shamelessly thrown in front of the reader's eyes.
This is a story of a peaceful consciousness in the midst of a raging world. This is a story of 'what if?' and seeing things for what they are.