Tuesday, February 7, 2012

50 Book Pledge #5: Albert Camus — The Stranger

A short novel, but the way Camus writes, it'd breeze by at six times the length. His spare style nevertheless burrows deep into his cryptic protagonist, to the point that it contains ideas well beyond existentialism. A clear absurdist streak marks the meaningless progression of events that occur to Monsieur Meursault, who nihilistically recognizes their meaninglessness despite the occasional, wistful desire to connect with something. Matthew Ward's translation is, I believe, now the standard (for such a relatively recent translation, it is ubiquitous as the default English version), but it's easy to see why. He Americanizes much of the text while still leaving a few crucial words untranslated, especially "Maman," which he rightly ascribes a significance that "Mother" would not convey the same way. I had no excuse for not reading this, and it delighted me through the depression it gave me. In that sense, it's not unlike Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, a (dis)similarly bleak novella that manages to capture a multifaceted worldview and nuanced emotional palette with scarcely more than a hundred pages.

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