Jan. 27th, 2012

toorsdenote: (book)
A friend recently stopped reading Wicked because he really didn't like any of the characters. I scoffed at this: the point of literature isn't to create pretend people that we want to be friends with.* Then I read The Stranger, and found myself more sympathetic to the idea that it's hard to enjoy a book about a person you just want to punch.

Actually, maybe the problem isn't that I don't like Meursault but that I don't relate to him in any way, and I can't work out whether or not Camus thinks I should. I certainly never thought, "Ah yes, this man epitomizes the human condition." Mostly I thought, "Is this guy a sociopath, or does he just have Asperger's?" Does Camus really think we're all in the same existential position as Meursault? Is he putting Meursault forward as an example of someone who copes well with the absurdity of life, or poorly? I feel like this is a book I needed to read with my AP English teacher on hand to explain the point to me.

I also think this book really let me down as an atheist who largely admires existentialist philosophy. Thanks, Camus, for furthering the idea that atheism involves trading in our moral compass for an utterly meaningless life! I actually think there's something really noble about the idea of creating our own meaning in the face of what Meursault calls "the blind indifference of the world." But Meursault doesn't create any meaning, and there's certainly nothing noble about him. I don't know much about absurdism, but it seems closer to nihilism than existentialism than me. And we all know what nihilists are like.

So, LJ friends, what am I missing about The Stranger? What makes this book an unforgettable classic?

* Or is it? All the other books I've read this year have featured protagonists so nice they beggar belief.


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