The Outsider by Albert Camus

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I’ve not read Albert Camus before (I know, I know) but after discovering and reading ‘The Outsider‘ I can honestly say that I’ll be reading a lot more of his works (I’ve just ordered ‘The Fall’ and again it looks deliciously brilliant).

The Outsider‘ is a slow burning drama around one mans decent into chaos and the loss of his mind by his refusal to conform to societal norms – it’s the deftly crafted brilliance of how Camus has written the way Meursault (our main protagonist) sees the world and those around him that makes this such a powerful book. It’s a phenomenal piece of fiction – and I’m delighted to have discovered it and the genius that is Albert Camus.

The Outsider‘ shows how quickly a life can unravel, how easy it is to fall from grace when you’ve alienated your friends and family by your outlook on life and society – and more importantly it showcases how difficult it is to escape the current when you’re circling the drain.

Camus details brilliantly the bachelor Meursault and quickly accustoms us to his quite unique world view and opinionated way of thinking. We witness first hand the despair he faces, the isolation and loneliness caused by the opinions he has of those around him and the community he is a part of. Camus’ writing style brings to mind the great characters that Charles Bukowski and John Fante have previously created – and in Meursault we have a protagonist that doesn’t care for platitudes, who speaks and says and does whatever they want – no matter the collateral damage; Camus presents a broken man who doesn’t need fixing – because he’s the wrecking ball of his own life. 

The Outsider‘ is a perfectly balanced book, with intrinsically constructed prose; which reminded me of the Christopher Nolan film ‘Memento‘ where the beauty of the story is show to the reader / viewer in the last third of the book / film. As we digest the story we discover all of the little intricacies that Camus has planted throughout his story, dropped like seed in soil, which begin to sprout and blossom into life around our flailing protagonist. These seeds or should I call them breadcrumbs litter Camus’ prose and eventually taking the reader by surprise at the conclusion of the story when you see all the evidence stacking up against Meursault of which there is no escaping from. It’s masterfully done and packs one hell of a punch.

The Outsider is published by Penguin Modern Classics and is available here.

Albert Camus

Albert Camus (1913-60) grew up in a working-class neighbourhood in Algiers. He studied philosophy at the University of Algiers, and became a journalist. His most important works include The Outsider, The Myth of Sisyphus, The Plague and The Fall. After the occupation of France by the Germans in 1941, Camus became one of the intellectual leaders of the Resistance movement. He was killed in a road accident, and his last unfinished novel, The First Man, appeared posthumously.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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