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The Stranger or L’Étranger in French is a 1942 novel by Albert Camus. The plot revolves around the character Meursault, a French Algiers man and his journey from his Mother's funeral to his trial and execution for murder. The novel has had great acclaim with the likes of Oscar Wilde praising it, "When I wrote the Ballad of Reading Gaol in jail, I often 'read' The Stranger, though I preferred to call it the 'cell mate'."
The first part deals with his Mother's death and his finding a girlfriend and the second deals with the consequences of murder after Meursault shoots his gun at an Arab man for no apparent reason. The overly zealous bastions of society, the Church and State proceed with both barrels and try to make sure that in prison Meursault's ability to detach from society by practising the 'stranger' would come to an end.
Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday. I thought I might go down to the funeral. Me being her son and all, it was expected of me to bother going down. I'd rather smoke here on my balcony though. I felt the warm sun on my body and I ogled the hot ethnic chicks walking lazily down the Boulevard. I smoked some more and had a coffee. I rested and allowed my body to rest. I heard the man next door complain at his dog. I heard him give it a kick as well. I guess it was a good thing, the dog was disobedient.
As I walked along to the church I was confronted by the heat, the stifling heat of walking to the church. She had been staying at an old person's home after some unpleasantness living with me. I was glad she had gone then, I could 'alienate' as much as I wanted to and the flat was a better place to bring girlfriends back to and chain smoke.
I was asked by one of the nurses if I wanted to meet some of my mum's friends who were at the home. I said that would be fine; they were there waiting for the funeral tomorrow silently, beside my Mother's coffin. It was their fortune to be able sleep stare in senility at the wall. I made do as best I could by talking with the elderly nurse about my mother. Apparently she had been quite happy until the end and even had a gentleman friend who was sad that she had died. I did not have a moment to myself throughout and I could not distance myself from the mourners.
|How it often seems that the most satisfying efforts in life such as sitting on your hand throughout your mother's funeral to have quick 'stranger' are thwarted by the sentimentality of others|
I eventually got away after a long series of ceremonies and went back to my apartment and smoked, thankful for the warm breeze and that the funeral was finally over. I watched the sun set and the people below walking along. I saw some girls and sat on my hand. After a short while when the sweet evening smells of Algiers rose I began to take the pleasure of myself. Thankfully my balcony just concealed me and I was able to progress in peace. Afterwards I retired to bed where I slept peacefully until the morning.
The day at work was long and my boss ordered me to his office. He began to inform me of a promotion I would be interested in. As he went on he told me that I would move to some other part of the world where I would find it much nicer and more pleasant than here. I said that I was satisfied here as I numbed my hand on the seat. I went on to say that I was happy with my job and that despite my qualifications I was happy to continue on as I was in this inferior role. He was not pleased and told me that it would be madness not to accept such a lucrative, personally enriching and beneficial offer. I told him I was happy in my work and I left.
The next day I was at the beach. It was hot and the water was cool on my body. I watched all the smiling faces and I felt happy. I saw Marie. She was playing around and I went to her. I knew her from work and I think she thought I was attractive. I thought she was and for some reason we started to play around in the water. I thought of the 'Stranger' and I put my hand under her backside and she let me. I had a go in the water but she said she did not mind going back to her place to spend time together.
She tried to do the real stranger with me and I was very disappointed indeed, however she allowed for me to go a little further that afternoon. I was pleased afterwards as we rested into early evening. Although I never usually thought retrospectively I did feel as if I did not get as much done as I would have liked. I got dressed despite her protests but said we should see each other again soon. When I got home I was confronted by my neighbour, Raymond, who invited me in. Being an affected man I was a little drowsy from the afternoon's activity, however he was insistent that I join him for a drink.
He began to tell me about his girlfriend whom he suspected was unfaithful. He went on to discuss how she owed him money. He told me that he had decided to take vengeance upon her for these apparent infidelities, involving spiting on her whilst they were making love. He did say in her defence that she did pay the rent and made reasonably decent breakfasts. He asked for my opinion and I replied that I had no opinion whatsoever. He then asked if I would write a letter to his girlfriend. I wrote the letter and it was suitably offensive and he said he would send it to her straight away and that he was "most pleased" with my writing efforts.
Raymond invited me and Marie to go with him and a friend to the beach. I dragged Marie along for a kind of double date. It was warm and Marie went off with his friend's girlfriend and we had a lovely day. I went for a walk with Raymond. As we came round a bend we saw two Arabs masturbating over Marie and Raymond's friends' girlfriend as they sunbathed below. This was, according to Raymond, "our turf" and we jumped them. As the pair fled, Raymond informed me that they were his former girlfriend's brothers who had probably come to get some payback. He handed me a pistol from the villa and told me to be ready for anything.
|I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn't. This Arab man was definitely not going to help with my beach efforts|
I went off and left Raymond. I remember waking to find myself still on the beach with my pants down. The sun was hot, too hot. It made me feel like I was boiling over like a kettle. Or a sausage on a barbecue. Or potato in an oven. I saw one of the brothers down the deserted beach. I had no idea what was going to happen or why I had ended up here on the beach sitting on my hand. This was one of those situations where I wish I had some foresight.
He came over obviously with some intent of doing some damage after the first fight. I felt the gun in my pocket. I flopped it out along with the pistol. As I gripped tightly at the butt my hands numbed and with the sun in my eyes I pulled the trigger without a second thought. Upon seeing the dead man I remembered Ruth Rendell mysteries and how it was appropriate to react in this situation. I pulled one more time and I shot three more rounds at my opponent.
I was later arrested and interrogated by the police. They seemed quite hostile to me. They explained that I had killed a man and wanted to know if it was some kind of revenge or what motivation I had for doing the things I did. I replied that the Sun was burning my eyes. This proved to be too much for them, the leader of the interrogators angrily retorted "so you killed a man in cold blood and had a little tommy tanky on the beach?" The other looked very angry and began to discuss how God came into this, "Can't you see, that you've transgressed against the Lord, your fellow man and ultimately yourself?" Their questions gave me a headache and I replied that no, I saw no connection with myself and my actions and their effect on anyone except the dead man and my mother who were dead and were hardly likely to make an issue over the matter.
This really set them off and I was dispatched to my cell promptly. They brought me back after an hour and began further questioning. I was asked again about how God's will had been violated when I had taken life and when I had failed to "honour thy Father and thy Mother". I said that I had honoured my Mother's life and I had not killed out of ill intention, that the sun was in my eyes and that "the stranger was an important activity for me and I did not like to be disturbed whilst I was performing it".
Later in my cell I asked a guard who brought me my food whether I could see a woman but he explained that sexual abstinence was apart of the punishment for what I had done. I said I understood and searched deeply within for inspiration after the guard had left me in peace. I found that I was able to be a stranger after this although things were more messy this way.
My trial was a civil affair with the prosecutor going through why he thought I killed the man on the beach and had no grief for my Mother. Witnesses at the funeral of my mother noted how I seemed glazed over and distant and peculiarly cheerful despite the sombreness of the occasion. This was, according to the prosecutor, "the sign of a damned character who must face true redemption from God". I saw Marie at the trial, she was with the others giving moral support. She was probably with another Meursault though she came along to show some support for me after she said she loved me when she visited my cell later. I wondered if she practised the Stranger and my lawyer appointed to defend me kept telling me to pay attention as the trial was very serious indeed.
|Marie had probably found another Meursualt by now, I still had the stranger though|
After my trial I began to have trouble. I could barely remember Marie for one of my sessions as she had stopped coming to see me, claiming it was "too awful". The last I remember of her was at my trial which felt like a long time ago now. I longed for the sweet caress of a woman, any woman or a lap dance which would give me the material necessary for a good session.
I gradually became accustomed to prison life and what happinesses there were and began to enjoy my meals as before. My lawyer informed me that my demise was to come soon and that only a confession before God could persuade the judges to spare my life. I replied that there would be no reason for me to do this and later that day the priest visited me.
The priest began to discuss whether I believed in Jesus Christ. I calmly replied that no, I did not believe in the Jew that two thousand years ago died for our sins. He then leaned over on the desk and produced a man bag. He stared ominously at me whilst I thought of girls' hair. After a short while of rummaging he produced a small crusty child's sock. "This", he said, "is my wank sock, are you also telling me you do not believe in this?" I stared blankly and I replied that no, I much preferred the 'Stranger' although I had tried the sock. It was a little uncomfortable for me. He said that he could not believe that anyone could be opposed to the sock and he left quite forgetting why he came or the issue of my actual crimes.
I was later informed that my execution would come on Wednesday at noon and that I was to be hanged. I felt some level of relief as I had spent so much time being a stranger in this cell that I felt ready to be amongst humanity again as it would be in public. At last another release. I had ceased to care about prison or my losses. I now desired to have a permanent post-coital rest which I was to receive from the State's trusty rope.
The guards came for me soon after breakfast and I walked along the corridor with wet pants that were never going to dry and chafe me. As I went outside into the crowd I was finally ready to be a part of the people who had come to see me.