While these days I have a strong preference for diverse & modern fantasy and sci-fi books, at the end of the day, I’m still the worst kind of lit nerd. So today I decided to pick up my copy of Albert Camus’s ‘The Stranger’, one of those classic novels that’s picked up a reputation for being boring.
From the first chapter, I can see why it has that reputation – however, I’m quite enjoying it. Unlike genre novels, it doesn’t start with any sort of bombastic entry. Instead, the book begins with a slow, dissociative first-person retelling of the death of Monsieur Meursault’s aged mother, the vigil at her side and her funeral. Monsieur Meursault doesn’t give himself over to any great expression of grief during the two days he spends mourning his mother, but he’s clearly mourning anyway; he fixates on describing others, on the small details and the step-by-step machinery.
It’s an odd novel so far, for sure. And I can definitely understand why a high school class might not enjoy reading it. Nothing particularly is happening. But that’s part of the joy of literary fiction – particularly French literary fiction, although I wish my French was good enough to read this untranslated. It’s not about what happens – it’s about who it’s happening to.
I’m curious to read the rest of this and see what’s made it a classic, although I’m aware that distinction can be arbitrary at best. This is the kind of gloomy, inward-looking contemplation that I can appreciate!