Constantly putting me in the shoes of its characters, the book subtly asked questions, and made me think about the course of action I would take in those very situations, writes Gazala Amreen.
There are books that are earmarked as ‘must reads’ by readers. These are authors who are counted as legends. Sometimes these books are everything you expected them to be. However, there are also times when these books disappoint so much, that we start to question ourselves. I would admit that I have disliked more of these ‘must reads’ than I have liked them. I recently read The Stranger by Albert Camus, book which has been a rage amongst readers around the world. After having read the book, perhaps now, I understand why.
The cover of the book is simple and doesn’t reveal anything about the plot to the reader. However, after reading, I realised that this simple black and white pattern shows the way the protagonist thinks, it’s straightforward and twisted just the same. Sometimes it seems like simple black and white thoughts originating from his mind. And some instances made me feel like they are sharp lines shooting at my very logic.
The book is set along the Algerian beach. It opens with a death that plays a pivotal role in the book. Meursault is a young man going about his job and spending his youth enjoying the usual thrills as most youth do. He is then invited over by his neighbour, and made a judge of a certain event that occurs in his life. This is the beginning of a friendship that later embroils Meursault in another death. The second half of the book deals with his arrest, his time in the prison and his trail in the Court.
One of the reasons why The Stranger is such an important book, is perhaps its impeccable translation. The emotions here are as impactful as the original script, and thanks to Camus’ popularity, this book is a perfect example of how a literature should be translated. The thought-process of the protagonist is so well laid out that you are completely wrapped in it. It is abrupt and yet draws you in. It is appealing in the most absurd ways and I think the writing and the language used plays a massive role in how the book makes the reader feel.
Coming to the content of the book. The characters are brilliant, and the book had a strong grip on me even when I was not reading it. Constantly putting me in the shoes of its characters, the book subtly asked questions, and made me think about the course of action I would take in those very situations. Meursault is somewhat disconnected, he comes off as a cold and emotionless person but yet has a deep sense of morale. Both these ideas are quite contradictory and to be dominating in one person is a delight. While you agree with his choices based on his moral values, you are also astounded by his heartlessness. How can someone like this exist? Is he right? Is he wrong? The answers suddenly become obscure as the lines between right and wrong blur away.
‘The Stranger’ is strange in so many ways. It is absurd and enticing. Right from the very nature of Meursault, to his actions, to the consequences and how his life plays out- everything leaves you a little dumbfounded. I assumed that as I read this book, I am slowly getting into the mind of the protagonist. But how wrong I was for he continues to be a stranger. He is nothing like anyone you’ve ever read about before. While his moral reasoning is quite on point, his analysis makes you want to shake him up and show him how wrong he is. Yes, contradicting I know, but that’s just what the book does to you. In conclusion, a book as strange and as brilliant as this needs to be read by every booklover there is.
Gazala Amreen is a Bengaluru-based writer.