Friday, 10 April 2009

The Outsider - Albert Camus

Read: November 2006

Ah, there is no punishment like the social pressure to conform. No condemnation greater than that reserved for outsiders who fail to live up to our social norms of expected behaviour.

Following the death of his mother, Meursault appals everyone by showing no trace of sadness. He refuses to feign mourning and instead plans a day trip to the beach. But when he commits a random act of uncharacteristic violence, a baffled society jumps on the chance to punish him and the machinery of the law cranks into gear.

At his trial Meursault refuses to repent, shows no remorse or guilt, even when it could save his life. Soon it becomes clear that it is not the crime he has committed that Meursault is being punished for, but his very refusal to play the game, his very status as an outsider. His greatest crime is not murder, nor refusal to repent, but feeling nothing at the death of his mother, a crime no-one can understand or ever forgive.

Camus brilliantly elucidates the nature of moral and mob justice. This is a novel which resonates long after you have finished it. One of the classic twentieth century novels, up there with Kafka’s The Trial and Calvino’s If on a Winters Night a Traveller. Read it now.

8 out of 10

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