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The Stranger

The Stranger, also translated as The Outsider, (the original French version is called L'Étranger) (1942) is a book by Albert Camus that tells the story of an alienated man who eventually commits a murder and waits to be executed for it. The book uses an Algerian setting, drawn from Camus' own upbringing. The title is poorly translated into English because L'Étranger in French is foreigner rather than 'stranger' in English. And given the time in which it was written and the existential nature of the novel it is more fitting to read the title as The Foreigner.

At the trial, the prosecution focuses on Meursault's inability or unwillingness to cry at his mother's funeral, considered suspect by the authorities. The killing of the Arab apparently is less important than whether Meursault is capable of remorse. The argument follows that if Meursault is incapable of remorse then he should be considered a dangerous misanthrope and subsequently executed to prevent him from doing it again and in his execution make him an example to those considering murder.

Of note as well, Albert Camus was also a pied-noir meaning a french who previously lived in the Magreb[?], the northern most crescent of the Mediterranean Sea, and the heart of French Colonies[?], and come back to France. Early Christian Missionaries[?] accused dark skinned people of having no morals because they cannot blush and hence, they are 'unabashed sinners'. Meursault's unwillingness or inability to cry at his mother's funeral could have been interpreted as society's rejection of individuals rejection of God and, as well, the societal prejudice of the 'immorality' of people of color.

Usually classed as an existential novel, The Stranger is indeed based on Camus' theory of the absurd[?]. Many readers mistakingly believe that the novel's main character, Meursault, lives by the ideas of the existentialists. However in the first half of the novel Meursault, whilst living life in the moment and exalting in his body's senses, is clearly an unreflective individual . It is Meursault's inability to reflect on the nature of his existence and of life that leads him to murder. Only by being tried and sentenced to death is Meursault forced to acknowledge his own mortality and the responsibility he has for his own life. Another theme is that we make our own destiny, and we are entirely responsible for our actions and their consequences, not God.

In cinema, the novel inspired a famous film by Luchino Visconti.

The single Killing an Arab (1978), by the band The Cure, was inspired by this novel.


The Stranger was a series of direct-to-video science fiction dramas made by BBV and starring Colin Baker. More information can be found in the BBV article.


The Stranger is the name of the popular album in the 1970s by Billy Joel. See The Stranger (album)[?]



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