So this is apparently not about sitting on your hand until it loses feeling, although funnily enough it is about a man who cannot bring himself to feel anything for what’s happening in his life. It begins with Meursault, a French Algerian, attending his mother’s funeral. He feels nothing for the loss, and the next day meets someone and begins a relationship with her as if nothing is out of the ordinary. He appears to be completely detached from the world, observing what’s happening to him as if he’s watching his own life on television. He soon finds himself in the middle of an abusive spat between his neighbour and his neighbour’s cheating girlfriend, which sets off a series of events culminating in him having shot an Arabian man who was brandishing a knife. After the murder, he seems more upset with the bright sun and heat than having taken a life.
This is split into two parts, the first consisting of what happened above and the second covering the repercussions. Meursault is thrown in jail and is put on trial. The trail quickly loses focus on the crime itself and begins to be about Meursault lack of remorse over the murder and his lack of grief over his mother’s passing. It’s something that he could easily deny with a lie, but he feels it’s wrong to do so.
Meursault is an interesting character, unlike most you find in fiction. He comes across as not caring about right or wrong, but he actually strongly abides by his own personal set of morals. Life is meaningless to him and everyone is bound to die and leave no mark of their passing, so why mourn them? He feels no remorse in killing a man but cannot bring himself to lie in court. The idea of following your own moral code, rather than that of society’s, is an interesting discussion, but when you jump straight to murder it’s hard to really spend time considering it.
This is a short but interesting novel. Jonathon Davis, one of my favourite narrators, handled this perfectly. I think it’s likely that I’ll re-read this again at some point. It’s very quick to get through, and I listened to this while painting a room and maybe didn’t give it the thought it deserved at the time. It seems to me that these days he would probably just be diagnosed with severe depression or sociopathy, which isn’t quite as glamorous as being a nihilist.