The Stranger by Albert Camus

Maman died today. She was my mother. I needed to visit the old people’s home at Marengo. I didn’t feel any impact of her death yet even though I needed to attend her funeral. She was placed in an old people’s home. It was a long journey and I didn’t like visiting her.

Later on, the director showed me to where her body was. I was Meursault. My mum wanted a religious funeral and the director was arranging proceedings. The caretaker left me alone with the casket. I started conversing with the caretaker and he told me his background. The caretaker and I started smoking near her casket. Maman’s friends started streaming in. Everyone appeared gloomy and silent. Deep inside my heart, I wished one of her friends who was mourning and sobbing would shut up. I didn’t know who she was anyway. In the night, one old man started coughing and disturbed the peace. My body was aching and I felt tired. Some of my plans were affected by my mum’s death. One of her friends, Mr Perez, at the home was allowed to see the funeral procession. The priest started chanting and the process began. The heat was oppressive and extremely biting. I didn’t know how old my mum was when she died. During the procession, Mr Perez couldn’t keep up and I lost sight of him. Finally it ended and I could get a good night’s sleep.

‘For the first few days after being placed in an old people’s home, my mother cried a lot. But that was because she wasn’t used to it. A few months later and she would have cried if she’d been taken out. She was used to it.’  Meursault

Now, it was Saturday and I went for a swim. I met Marie Cardona, a former typist at our office, and we had a good time in the pool. I watched a movie together with her that evening. We slept together in my apartment. I simply sat at home on Sunday and smoked cigarettes. That day, I started observing people on the streets. The week was over and I would be working again tomorrow. Nothing had changed.

I had to pore through a stack of freight invoices. Emmanuel was a dispatcher. Together with him, we hopped onto a truck and headed for lunch. On the way home after work, I bumped into my neighour, Salamano and his dog. They were both haggard and drawn. Salamano and his dog had a hateful relationship and it had been on-going for 8 straight years. When I saw him, he was cursing at the dog for no reason. Raymond was my other neighour. He is alleged living off women. He invited me for dinner at his place and I accepted. The bandage he had around his hand was because he was involved in a fight recently. Raymond claimed to be a warehouse guard even though he kept her in the home. The guy whom he was involved in a fight was actually her brother. She was working for Raymond at the moment for a wage. Raymond also had evidence that she cheated on him. Before he let her go, he hit her real badly. He believed in punishing her. I could understand why Ray wanted to punish her. Now, Ray called me his ‘pal’. I started reading a letter which he wanted me to. Ray seemed to think that we could be good friends.

Marie and I made love again on Saturday. Later, we had lunch together in my apartment. When she asked me whether I loved her, I said it doesn’t matter. It was then that I heard Raymond screaming at a lady from his apartment. Raymond was hitting her real badly. Thankfully, a policeman entered his apartment and reprimanded him. She would be taken in to the police station. That afternoon, Raymond visited me. I agreed to be his witness and admit that the girl cheated on him. Raymond didn’t feel any remorse and admitted that he was happy he hit the girl. When we returned to the apartment, we noticed that Salamano lost his dog. The old man thought it was ridiculous to pay people to look for the dog. He would rather it die. That night, he came over to my apartment and was sobbing. It was ironic. He missed the dog very much.

Raymond told me that he had been followed by a group of Arabs, one of whom was a brother of his ex-mistress. My boss was opening a branch in Paris and suggested that I go work there. I told him that I wasn’t ambitious, that goals didn’t matter and that I was happy here. He was pissed at this. Marie asked me whether I wanted to marry her. Even though I probably didn’t love her, I agreed to marry her because it didn’t matter anyway. I didn’t treat marriage seriously. Salamano couldn’t find his dog but we continued talking. He got his dog after his wife died. He mentioned that some people around the neighbourhood didn’t like me because I sent my mother to an old people’s home in the past. I defended myself by saying that I only did it because I didn’t have the finances to support her.

I couldn’t see any reason to change my life. When I was a student, I had lots of ambitions like working overseas etc. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered. – Meursault

Marie and I were planning to head to the beach but I was dead tired. Raymond got off with a warning from the police. We were visiting Raymond’s friend to have a party. Then, I caught a glimpse of a group of Arabs. We got off the bus at Algiers and the Arabs didn’t seem to be following us. We observed that there were people swimming on the beach. Ray’s friend was Masson. His wife was by his side in the bungalow. It was great swimming with Marie in the sea. We all headed back to the house to have lunch. Masson suggested that I went for a walk with him. From afar, I noticed two Arabs heading in our direction. We had a plan to take them down if they continued following us. There was a brief struggle and Raymond’s arm was slashed by a knife. The Arabs managed to flee . Raymond arm’s was bandaged now. Raymond and I met the Arabs again and now Raymond wanted to shoot them. Later, they backed away and hid behind a rock. Raymond’s man came back. He was intimidating and constantly observing me. The sun was hurting me and I was still in drunken stupor. Now, the Arab drew his knife and headed towards me. I fired at him and subsequently 4 more shots in his motionless body.

Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without a trace. And it was like knocking hour quick times at the door of unhappiness. – Meursault

Part 2

The police didn’t seem interested in the case even though I was arrested. The court will assign an attorney for me. The crime didn’t shake me at all. My lawyer was confident that he could win the case. He noted that I was insensitive when my mother died. I admitted that I was so tired that it affected how I felt about stuff. The lawyer was disappointed with my answers. Nobody understood me, not even him. The examination process began. I was tired of reporting what encountered during the day over and over again. I couldn’t explain why I shot at a body that was lying on the ground. The magistrate felt that no man was not forgivable according to God. However, man needed to repent. I told him that I didn’t believe in God. He felt that if men didn’t believe in God, life would be meaningless. He kept trying to convince me about God but I kept rejecting such views. I couldn’t get used to being a criminal. I wasn’t that sorry for what I did. The whole case took a grand total of 11 months. The judge called me ‘Mr Antichrist’.

I probably did love my mum, but that didn’t mean anything. At one time or another, all normal people have wished their loved ones were dead. – Meursault

I entered prison and it was a horrible experience. I was placed in a cell with a few people, some of them were Arabs. One day, Marie came to visit. My voice was drowned out by the man shouting beside me. Marie told me to have hope. Marie was very enthusiastic about my eventual release while I couldn’t be bothered. After a while, you could get used to anything. I gradually adapted to life in prison. There was always something to look forward to. In my cell, I dreamt about women and imagined them beside me. It helped to kill time. I couldn’t have cigarettes in prison. Later I got used to not smoking, and it didn’t feel like a punishment anymore. I wasn’t too unhappy and the difficult thing was killing time. I kept recalling vivid memories and it didn’t feel boring anymore. I often slept a lot in prison. I couldn’t keep track of time on prison. I was so used to prison routine that I didn’t believe I was already in prison for 5 months. I smiled at my reflection in a tin plate.

I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it. I would have waited for birds to fly by or clouds to mingle. – Meursault

I realized then that a man who has lived only 1 day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored. In a way, it was an advantage. – Meursault

Time started to pass quickly. I was interested to watch my trial. The jury and everyone else was staring at me. The reporter admitted that he had blown my case up over the papers. The court was now in session and everyone was present. I didn’t know much of the legal procedure. It was time for the witnesses to take the stand. The courtroom was very warm. The judge questioned me calmly. He started asking about Maman. I told her both of us later got used to our own lives. The hearing would be adjourned till the afternoon. The director revealed the truth about my relationship with my mum. My lawyer proclaimed ‘Everything in this trial is true, and nothing is true!’. Celeste defended me, saying that whatever happened to me was just bad luck. Marie also testified as a witness. The day after my mom died, I was out swimming with my girlfriend. Raymond attributed a lot of things to chance, including him being on the beach when he met the Arabs. My lawyer proclaimed ‘Come on, is my client on trial for burying his mother or for killing a man?’ The prosecutor proclaimed ‘I accuse this man of burying his mother with crime in his heart!’ Things were not looking good for me.

The lawyer didn’t want me to talk much. The case too place without my participation. It felt weird. The judge was basically saying that my crime was premeditated. He cast my soul as being criminal in nature. No one can say that I acted without realizing what I was doing. The judge kept coming and berating me and I couldn’t explain that I felt very little remorse in anything I did. He mentioned that moral principles was out of my reach. He talked about my implications on society. The judge concluded I was a monster and that he was primed to use the death penalty on me. There was no place in society for people like me. I stood up and said I never intended to kill the Arab and that the heat of the sun caused me to act. The court reconvened in the afternoon. My lawyer taught that I was an honest man, and a role model. I dreamt of my previous life, where I could enjoy the days of summer. My lawyer was convinced that I would have a favourable outcome. I didn’t have anything else to say to the judge.

I was placed in a different cell. At least, I can see the sky. I wondered how many men have managed to escape justice. I didn’t think I could escape the realm of justice in any way possible. In the past, my dad saw a man being publicly executed and it was indeed awful. Sometimes, I tried making up new laws in my head. I realized that every condemned man should be given a second chance. I wanted to invent a chemical where it could only kill people 9 of out 10 times. In execution, there would be no hitch. I hated that thought. I thought about dawn and the appeal. I always woke up early to watch sunrise. Now, I was waiting for the verdict on my case. If my appeal would be rejected, I would not be upset. Everyone had to die anyway. I refused to see the chaplain. It seemed unimportant whether I believed in God or not. The chaplain appeared by my side and started talking to me. I wasn’t interested in God and didn’t need help from above. I didn’t care whether it helped other men. He was upset by my reply. He said I was carrying a burden of a sin. To him, divine justice was everything. I told him I had little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God. Although I could have dreamt of another life, it was immaterial at this moment. Then I snapped and yelled at him. He appeared so sure of everything, when all I thought was that he was like living like a dead man. Life was just plain absurd to me. The chaplain left and he was in tears. Late into the night, sirens blasted. Evening was a restful respite. I thought about my mother now. The world was completely indifferent to human existence.

What really counted was the possibility of escape, a leap to freedom, out of the implacable ritual, a wild run for it that would give whatever chance for hope there was. – Meursault

But everybody knows life isn’t worth living. Deep down I know perfectly well that it doesn’t much matter whether you die at thirty or at seventy, since in either case other men and women will naturally go on living – and for thousands of years. In fact, nothing could be clearer. Whether it was now or twenty years from now, I would still be the one dying…Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter. – Meursault

Anyway, after that, remembering Marie meant nothing to me. I wasn’t interested in her dead. That seemed perfectly normal to me, since I understood very well that people would forget me when I was dead. They wouldn’t have anything more to do with me. – Meursault

The Chaplain: Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains? My reply was ‘Yes.’ – Meursault

What did other people’s deaths or a mother’s love matter to me; what did God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we’re all elected the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers? – Meursault

For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate. – Meursault

thestranger

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