Albert Camus: L'Étranger (1942)
|Le Livre De Poche edition, jacket design by Lucien Fontanarosa|
[Image source: Alexis Orloff, https://www.flickr.com/photos/aorloff/6072937176/]
A book that (as The Outsider, in Stuart Gilbert's translation) was on all our male youthful minds and bookshelves in the 1970s. In other words a classic Peng-gie Modern Classic, along with Gormenghast, The Glass Bead Game, etc.
(I think I studied it for French A-Level, along with Racine's Britannicus , Voltaire's Candide and Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac.)
L'Étranger being so short and easy to read, is a good study-text for schools; you can still find out all about it in Shmoop and places like that. And it still gets plenty of discussion, though I've a feeling its moment has passed, that the urgency of the issues Camus intended to raise is less clear-cut than it was, and that on the other hand time has only tended to underline the glaring issue of the book's quite primitive attitudes to women and to colonized "natives". In particular our awareness of and contacts with the Arab world have been completely overhauled since 9/11; westerners can no longer regard the Arab world as something separate. But as recently as 1980, when The Cure released an admired single called "Killing an Arab" (based on L'Étranger), I was probably typical of British 21-year-olds in having only the smallest sense that this could possibly offend someone. I don't necessarily claim that modern sensitivities in the west are all 100% positive or well-directed, but I do think they mostly are and they've certainly changed how we think and feel. In the study, especially. (Meanwhile in the real world, it remains unclear when the number of Arabs being killed by Westerners is going to stop accelerating.)
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