The Stranger is one of the classic works of Albert Camus the French author and
Nobel Prize winner. The new translation is by Matthew Ward, and there's an earlier one by Stuart Gilbert.
The Stranger is the story of Meursault, a Frenchman in Algeria, in the time when Algeria
was a French colony. He gets the news that his mother has died in the old age home where
she lived, goes for her funeral and comes back. The day after returning he meets
Marie, an ex-colleague whom he had 'a thing for', and they spend the day and night together.
Meursault, Marie and a co-tenant of Meursault, Raymond, go to Raymond's beach house one
Sunday. Raymond is a disreputable character who has previously beaten up his mistress.
Meursault is not put off by Raymond and doesn't mind hanging out with him as Raymond is
nice with him. They have a good time, but have an altercation on the beach with the
mistress' brother and his cohorts. Finally there is a situation where Meursault is
alone on the beach and runs into one of those guys again. Meursault at this point has been
in the blazing sun for a while and his judgement is badly affected. He escalates the confrontation
with the Arab, who has a knife, and ends up shooting and killing the man.
The court appoints a lawyer to defend Meursault. The prosecutions case is that its a
premeditated murder. The problem is that Meursault is a detached kind of person. He did not show any emotion during his mothers' death. Several instances of this kind of behavior (eg. getting together with Marie and seeing a comedy movie immediately after his mother's death) are used to paint him as a coldblooded person with no soul. The jury sentences Meursault to death by guillotine. As he grapples with his predicament Meursault comes to a kind of understanding of life and the meaning of it. He sees 'the gentle indifference of the world' and finds it 'so much like himself -- so like a brother really'.
The 'Stranger' is a complex difficult book that doesn't lose its power in multiple readings.
Among the themes are the conventional mores that people are to live by and are judged by,
and the nature of being and feeling and emotions.