Often regarded as the master of philosophical fiction, Albert Camus is that one author who’ll speak everything you’ve experienced, at least, at some point in your life, and still manage to get it categorised as absurdist philosophy. Thinking of it, those range of sentiments you go through when you deal with the emotions depicted in the book, you begin to question the limit of morality – if there even exists one in the first place, that is- and at the same time, you understand that those are the emotions which aren’t highly thought of in a society like ours. We place bigger emphasis on trivial matters and lesser on those which are of grave importance. Having given the emotional up among all the living creatures, we humans have developed a very twisted way of thinking with time and we’ve set it as a parameter of judgement where it isn’t even needed. “He didnt understand me, and he was sort of holding it against me.” And this, is the core of what the book speaks about.
The narration flows very smoothly. It keeps the reader gripped for its very easy narration (the translation by Matthew Ward is my source of claim) as well as for his curiosity at what the author would throw at him next. The protagonist, Meursault, is a very detached personality and his thought process is centred on only physical elements. He’s free from all emotional sadness- be it the death of his mother or the ill treatment inflicted by his friend on his ‘mistress’, Meursault is indifferent to it all. It bothers the reader at first. But after a point, we get acclimatised to the way our protagonist is and accept him for all his idiosyncrasies. As his mother had also told him, “after a while, you could get used to anything.”
“When I was first imprisoned, the hardest thing was that my thoughts were still those of a free man.” This is where rests most of the second part of the book. Meursault is imprisoned for having committed a murder, to which he admits as well, and waits for his sentence, which he hopes to get less severe for the fact that he admitted to it. But the coming of the verdict of his case keeps getting extended for the fact that he’s an unemotional person and funnily, it’s held against him worse than the fact that he committed a murder. “But I couldn’t quite understand how an ordinary man’s good qualities could become crushing accusations against a guilty man.” It is, in a way, a satire on the society and it’s ways. What’s the most characteristic thing about this book, in my opinion, is the constancy of Meursault. He is an atheist and remains so till the very end, despite the many attempts by numerous people as well as difficult circumstances. What causes changes in his theories, though, is his own changing perception regarding the different facets of his life. He has hope through all the drastic happenings, despite being the unemotional one, and when that hope fails him, momentarily dishevelled, he accepts life the way it is, comes to terms with it, and carries on with what suits the situation best.
This is not a book that can be reviewed (it’s been difficult for me, here 😅) or evaluated or even recommended. This is one of those books which you just pick up, read through in one (or two) go and right after it ends, you just try to fathom what happened and more importantly, what made it happen. To sum it all up, this 123-page novel knows how to make you think if you give it the power to. 🙂
The food mentioned in this book isn’t something we aren’t familiar with. Scrambled eggs, combos of sausage and wine, bread, fish, meat and fried potatoes for a sumptuous meal, all of it often accompanied with some coffee– it’s what most of us have had at some point or the other. Though these are the mainstream dishes/food items, they’re written of in a way to definitely make you walk to the kitchen, at least once, while reading this book.
However, I find it of essence to mention that these dishes are only mentioned in the first part of the book- the one where all the crucial developments happen. The second deals with the outcomes of those developments and is more focussed on the philosophical side, and thereby, there’s no mention of any dishes.
In an all, what I can say about this Nobel laureate is that Camus knows how and when to whet your appetite, be it for food, or for some deep thinking.