The Stranger | Study Guide

Albert Camus

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The Stranger | 10 Things You Didn't Know


Published in 1942 Albert Camus's The Stranger is regarded as one of the greatest existential texts of all time. Unable to feel genuine grief regarding his mother's death, Meursault, the novel's protagonist, presents a fascinating philosophical study of human emotion and its relation to social values and expectations. Meursault's social apathy leads him to commit murder without reason. As he accepts his impending execution for this crime, his story raises questions regarding purpose in life, morality, and the existence of God. For decades Camus's novel has been praised, critiqued, and analyzed by literary critics and philosophers alike.

1. Famous philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre sparked the popularity of Camus's book.

Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher whose work was extremely influential at the time of The Stranger's publication, wrote a positive review of his friend Albert Camus's new novel. Although The Stranger was not a best seller upon publication, Sartre's approval of it was helpful both in terms of sales and acceptance within the philosophical community of France.

2. Camus fled to Algeria from France to escape the Nazis during World War II.

A supporter of the French Resistance during World War II, Camus had to flee Paris in 1940 during the Nazi occupation. After the war, Camus wrote editorials urging the French to extend the freedom for which the French Resistance had stood in mainland France to their colonial possession of Algeria, allowing all citizens there to enjoy equal rights.

3. The Stranger was ranked as the "Book of the Century" in France—and disregarded in other countries.

A poll by Le Monde, a French newspaper, revealed that The Stranger was the country's most memorable book of the 20th-century. However, its popularity wasn't global. A wider-reaching poll of the 100 best novels, conducted by Modern Library, did not include The Stranger at all; Ayn Rand took the top slot with Atlas Shrugged.

4. An Algerian author wrote a novel in response to The Stranger.

In The Stranger, Camus does not give names to any of the Arab characters the protagonist encounters in Algeria, including the man he murders. Bothered by this lack of identity, Kamel Daoud wrote his 2013 novel The Meursault Investigation by narrating the story from an indigenous perspective. He assigns names and develops the Arab characters in the plot to make "Algeria more than just a setting for existential questions posed by a French novelist."

5. Camus summed up The Stranger in one sentence.

The author wrote, "In our society, any man who doesn't cry at his mother's funeral is liable to be condemned to death." He would later clarify that he simply meant that his protagonist refuses to lie regarding his emotions, which leads to his demise.

6. Camus published another philosophical work the same year as The Stranger.

In 1942, the same year his famed novel was published, Camus released a collection of philosophical essays entitled The Myth of Sisyphus. It addresses questions of mortality, particularly in relation to suicide and human suffering.

7. The Stranger has gotten lost in translation over the years.

Originally published in French under the title L'étranger, the first several English translations featured the title The Outsider. It was not until two 1982 translations by Joseph Laredo and Kate Griffith that the title The Stranger was used. A 1988 version by American writer Matthew Ward also controversially modified the famous first line of the book from "Mother died today" to "Maman died today."

8. The Stranger is featured in the 2012 film Life of Pi.

The film includes a flashback of the title character reading a copy of The Stranger at his home in India, foreshadowing the existential journey on which he is about to embark during his travels at sea.

9. The Stranger makes an appearance in the The Sopranos.

In the episode "D-Girl," protagonist Tony Soprano's son explains to his family that the hypothetical deaths of his friends interest him. This interest stems from a newfound fascination with existentialism after reading The Stranger in school.

10. The Cure recorded a song inspired by The Stranger.

In 1980 the song, titled Killing an Arab, appeared on the English rock band's first U.S. album, Boys Don't Cry. Many critics, without making the connection to Camus's book, called for censorship of the song over the perceived racism of its title.

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