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The Outsider by Albert Camus
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The Outsider

Albert Camus


In spite of my willingness to accept this glaring certainty, I simply couldn't. Because, in reality, from the moment judgement was passed, the evidence my sentence was based on seemed ridiculously out of proportion to its inevitable conclusion.

What or perhaps who is an Outsider? One who doesn’t conform to the norms set out by society. Who makes his choices irrespective of contemplating their probables outcomes as per society or simply one who acts as life props up. Monsieur Meursault is an outsider to the society, a stranger to himself. He is not fond of playing games or telling lies rather accept life as it comes to him without any underlying sense of morality, prejudice or conformity. The character of Meursalt is hard to come by, as, being conscious and emotional beings we tend to have opinions, prejudices. We have an almost natural tendency to have belief systems, form ethics, define morality or rather simply we need some sort of order in our life. But this very tendency of ours we call natural, is it really natural? Perhaps it is, probably it is not. Meursault sees that there is no inherent meaning of life. Is it really so? Is there no grand design or meaning of life? If it is so then why are we living? What is whole point of our existence? Does it mean we are living an inauthentic existence or we are living in some sort of simulation as some of modern physicists quite enthusiastically suggest? According to Camus, there is ever going conflict between inclination of human beings to seek inherent meaning and value in life and the ever present inability of us to find any. Camus says that once we become conscious of our absurd life, we should embrace it and should continue to explore and search for meaning of life.

The protagonist, Meursault, here doesn’t possess any of the seemingly natural tendencies. He is a man without feelings and one incapable of feeling remorse. The book onsets with one of the most profound starting lines of the literature - My mother died today. Or may be yesterday, I don’t know. I received a telegram from the old people’s home: ’Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Very sincerely yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. It might have been yesterday. The narrator may come across as someone quite oblivious to the world and it seems to be quite abhorrent to most of the people, for one is supposed to behave in a certain way on certain occasions and when someone loses his mother, he is supposed to show emotions which are considered natural as per society. But our narrator, to the dismay to all, amidst the profound loss (or seemingly) of her mother is consciously aware of absurdness of the life. He depicts the ironies of enforcing meaning in a void and the absurdities that surround us as humans walking towards the same cold, lifeless fate. Though people around him feel stunned at such display of coldness towards the loss of her mother. Perhaps they have been conditioned to behave so. We have become civilized (as least we think so) quite a long time ago but since the dawn of civilization we have amass so much that, in a way, we are going away from natural aspects. We have so conditioned ourselves to different dogmas, belief systems over the centuries that if someone doesn’t abide by them- he come across simply an outsider to our society.

Our narrator has a sense of innocence towards life, he is naïve (However certainly not novice in his understanding of life) in the sense that he finds it astonishing when people looks horrific on his display of air of indifference towards life- its conformists. He is a man of few words or feelings past those that decisions seldom have much effect in the great plan of the world. However it is his decisions that effect him in this world, particularly by the individuals who trust that his decisions would come gnawing at him in a next world that presumably doesn't exist as indicated by the narrator. The narrator is shown unsympathetic attitude by the members of society over his choices in life, choices which don’t adhered to life as per them, but in reality their norms or laws are as pointless as they themselves are. And that is the absurdness of life. The narrator is well aware of the absurdness of life and his acts are in accordance to the same. The unintended murder by Meursault puts him in an awkward situation among the society as he says the trigger going off from being overcome by the sun and heat. Does it make any difference- the intention- since nevertheless it leads to a murder whatever may be the intention? Perhaps it does, since if it is not so then there is no difference between jury and a killer. But this presumption acts as priori for the trial of Meursault as it is proved eventually that murder was an intended one. Meursault describes the trial rather absurd since he is cornerstone of the whole trial and he is not allowed to express himself in the matter as if he doesn’t exist and a mere entity rather a conscious being. The trial which is based more on his conduct during funeral of his mother rather than the act of murder, the trial room gradually becomes symbolism of justice based on values considered akin to human beings. The one who does not conforms to these values condemned to death in the eternal trail room of justice, justice which appears to be equally absurd since it seems to be driven by some sort of dogma rather than any evidences. While he is ready to accept his fate- the punishment- but he finds the judgement rather ridiculous, he doesn't plead for mercy since he takes life as it comes even if it's hiding something as profound (or seem so) as death underneath its folds. The book ends with a sort of philosophical doctrine by the narrator which resembles Christ as Camus himself called Meursault "a man who… agrees to die for the truth" and characterised him as "the only Christ that we deserve". And I as well, I too felt ready to start life all over again. As if this great release of anger had purged me of evil, emptied me of hope; and standing before the symbolic night bursting with stars, I opened myself for the first time to the tender indifference of the world. To feel it so like me, so like a brother, in fact, I understood that I had been happy, and I was still happy. So it might be finished, so that I might feel less alone, I could only hope there would be many, many spectators on the day of execution and that they would greet me cries of hatred. We may observe that even at the verge of death, Meursault doesn’t demand sympathy from anyone rather he wants the world to greet him with hatred since he doesn’t regret at all.

Camus once said that he did not want to ridicule any belief system per se rather he wanted to put forth the underlining absurdity of life. He says that there is only one philosophical problem in the life and that is suicide. According to him, the only question worth asking is the great choice that whether life is worth living or not. Camus points out, however, that there is no more meaning in death than there is in life, and that it simply evades the problem yet again. Camus concludes that we must instead "entertain" both death and the absurd, while never agreeing to their terms. He had been regularly labeled with existentialism though not to his wish. While existentialism suggests that there is no inherent meaning in life and we should accept it, thereby should define our lives and take responsibility to live by it; absurdism says that the very acceptance the absurd condition of life is the onset of true existence since while accepting the absurd situation one must not stop search for meaning for life. In that sense, the philosophy of camus is more humanitarian in approach while existentialism is a systematic philosophy.


The Outsider is a classic story about absurd nature of life. I absolutely loved it. And It is highly recommended to someone who is keen to explore the absurd nature of life or rather life in general.

4.5/5

*edited to remove bloopers.



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Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
Finished Reading
March 12, 2012 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
June 15, 2015 – Shelved as: camus (Other Paperback Edition)
June 15, 2015 – Shelved as: absurdism (Other Paperback Edition)
October 30, 2017 – Started Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
October 30, 2017 –
page 57
51.35% "I shook off the sweat and the sun. I realized that I had destroyed the natural balance of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I had once been happy. Then I fired four times into the lifeless body, where the bullets sank without leaving a trace. And it was as if I had rapped sharply, four times, on the fatal door of destiny." (Other Paperback Edition)
November 1, 2017 – Shelved
November 1, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites
November 1, 2017 – Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)

Comments Showing 1-50 of 53 (53 new)


message 1: by Jai (new) - added it

Jai Kishan Outstanding review, Gaurav! You've so eloquently explained the philosophy of Albert Camus.


Gaurav Jai wrote: "Outstanding review, Gaurav! You've so eloquently explained the philosophy of Albert Camus."

Thanks a lot for your generous words:)


Gaurav Jean-Paul wrote: "Exceptional review, Gaurav. Your incisive analysis is an wonderful invitation to revisit this work!"

Thanks a lot Jean-Paul for your generous words, I'm glad that this modest write-up urges you to revisit this classic. I'd be awaiting your opinion on it :)


RK-ïsme Another voice in support of your wonderful review Guarav. Your distinction between absurdism and existentialism is spot on. Too many readers conflate the two and the importance of Camus is lost. Thanks.


RK-ïsme You may also enjoy this counter-view to Camus, Guarav. Check out Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...


Gaurav RK-ique wrote: "Another voice in support of your wonderful review Guarav. Your distinction between absurdism and existentialism is spot on. Too many readers conflate the two and the importance of Camus is lost. Th..."

Thanks a lot RK-ique for your utterly kind words. I'm glad that you find it of some substance. I'd love to read your thoughts on it whenever you get to it :)


Gaurav RK-ique wrote: "You may also enjoy this counter-view to Camus, Guarav. Check out Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2..."


Thanks again Rk-ique for your suggestion, will look at it :)


message 8: by Akhil (new)

Akhil Kumar Quite an outstanding review of one the gems by Camus, the way you described his philosophy is remarkable. Thanks.


Marita Thanks for your excellent analysis, Gaurav.


Gaurav Marita wrote: "Thanks for your excellent analysis, Gaurav."

Thanks a lot for your kind words, Marita :)


Gaurav Akhil wrote: "Quite an outstanding review of one the gems by Camus, the way you described his philosophy is remarkable. Thanks."

You're welcome! Thanks a lot for your kind words :)


Amineshkumar95 Excellent analysis, Guarav, I really like the way pointed out difference between two schools of thought. Camus has been elusive to me yet, will try to amend it from this one. Adding it .


Gaurav Amineshkumar95 wrote: "Excellent analysis, Guarav, I really like the way pointed out difference between two schools of thought. Camus has been elusive to me yet, will try to amend it from this one. Adding it ."

Thanks for your kind words. Camus has been one of my favorite authors. I'm glad that you are looking to read books by him. Will be looking to read your opinion on it :)


message 14: by Kailashkumar (new) - added it

Kailashkumar Marvelous review, enjoyed it.


Gaurav Kailashkumar wrote: "Marvelous review, enjoyed it."

Thanks a lot for kind words:)


message 16: by Jai (new) - added it

Jai Kishan A video about philosophy of Camus-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7EBD...

I thought you might find it interesting!


Gaurav Jai wrote: "A video about philosophy of Camus-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7EBD...

I thought you might find it interesting!"


Thanks a lot, will look at it :)


message 18: by Zamaal (new)

Zamaal Khan Good review.


message 19: by Parthiban (new) - added it

Parthiban Sekar Brilliant review, G!


Gaurav Parthiban wrote: "Brilliant review, G!"

Thanks a lot Parthi, you've been kind :)


Gaurav Zamaal wrote: "Good review."

Thanks a lot :)


message 22: by Hina (new) - added it

Hina What an outstanding review, I read it in a sense of awe. Brilliantly done.


Caterina Well done, Guarav, and much food for thought. You have shed a bit more light on this, to me, impenetrable book. It's a strange paradox -- I feel an irrational affection for Camus while at the same time finding Monsieur Meursault utterly loathsome -- but perhaps we are supposed to find him loathsome? As my husband put it, this is not: "Hurray, we're free!" it's "Oh shit, we're free." To my mind, Meursault is no hero, not someone to be admired. Today we would call him a sociopath. And I wonder, given Camus's origin in Algeria, whether he represented Europe's sociopathic attitude to the rest of the world. Africa is the "Mother" of Europe, yet to disown one's mother, to casually kill an African, or an Arab, as if his life were nothing (while at the same time depending on Africans to do their work for them)... to me this represents Europe's behavior in the world.


Florencia The gospel of absurdism ;P You completely captured the spirit of this outstanding book - one of my favorites. I read your first paragraph twice, it's absolutely captivating and the questions included are still reverberating through my mind. This is a brilliant analysis, Gaurav, and I loved the fact that you also mentioned the differences between absurdism and existentialism - a label Camus indeed didn't particularly liked to be associated with.
Superb write-up!


message 25: by Gaurav (last edited Nov 03, 2017 07:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gaurav Caterina wrote: "Well done, Guarav, and much food for thought. You have shed a bit more light on this, to me, impenetrable book. It's a strange paradox -- I feel an irrational affection for Camus while at the same ..."

Thank you Catrerina for your kind words:) I agree with what your husband said that we are condemned to free- condemned in the sense that we have to define our lives and thereby take responsibility to live by it. While I won't say Meursault is sociopath but his acts are random- as life itself is random if we look in a holistic perspective. You put forth an interesting point there about Europe and Africa- I do agree to the extent that Europe's attitude has been regressive towards colonial countries or rather inhumane as one may call it so. But, to me, if we look deeper into human consciousness, we may find that power plays an important through out the history of human beings (as Bertrand Russell used to suggest) and it's addictive- perhaps more than anything else. And probably we, who sits at the epitome of social strata and enjoy power find it very hard to lose our position of advantage- advantage to us; and in effect, we forget that those who sits at the receiving end of our generosity might be finding it difficult to exist- naturally it requires higher intelligence to realize it and there's old saying that power blinds you. However, on may say, silver lining is that we have, in a sense, become matured and more 'civilized' and progressed from those horrific era but still some prejudices are prevalent in our society in somewhat comfortable way and whenever there's imbalance in power distribution, we see its reactions. Thanks Caterina for this really thought provocative comment, thoroughly enjoy these discussions with you :)


message 26: by Gaurav (last edited Nov 03, 2017 07:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gaurav Florencia wrote: "The gospel of absurdism ;P You completely captured the spirit of this outstanding book - one of my favorites. I read your first paragraph twice, it's absolutely captivating and the questions includ..."

Thanks for your generous comment as ever, Florencia! The Gospel haha, that puts some sort of pressure :P It's great to know that this timeless classic is your favorite too. Yeah, Camus and Sartre always used to be surprised to see their names linked together. It's also because of the fact that the day The Outsider was going to be published, Sartre also wrote an essay with similar name- it might have fueled this notion. Thanks Florencia for stopping by, it's always been a pleasure to have these little discussions with you :)


Caterina Gaurav wrote: "Caterina wrote: "Well done, Guarav, and much food for thought. You have shed a bit more light on this, to me, impenetrable book. It's a strange paradox -- I feel an irrational affection for Camus w..."

Thank you, Guarav, for your thoughtful and engaging response--yes, I agree with what you have said about power. I'll have to give more thought to what Camus might mean by having Meursault act randomly. The place of the concept of "random" in the history of human thought would be interesting to dig into, wouldn't it? ... I don't believe it's possible for us humans to have a holistic perspective; our view is very limited and constrained. And from what we do see, do things seem random or ordered? By what basis do we decide that things are random or ordered? What we observe seems ordered in some ways and random in others; we have insufficient information to know ...


message 28: by Gaurav (last edited Nov 03, 2017 04:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gaurav Caterina wrote: "Gaurav wrote: "Caterina wrote: "Well done, Guarav, and much food for thought. You have shed a bit more light on this, to me, impenetrable book. It's a strange paradox -- I feel an irrational affect..."

You're welcome Caterina, it's my pleasure too to have these enriching discussions with you. Though I do agree with you- in fact you're bang on here- that we are limited by our ability or rather inability to view only limited world but by random, I intended to put the very randomness of life - at least as it looks so due to whatever limited view we have of world. What if this whole life is just a random act - one of many probable solutions as new age physicists use to say; what if there is no order or design behind life as we know it- it's just that over the years it has come down to what life forms we experience today and we are mainly limited by our restrained ability to view time itself. What seems like centuries or eras to us, are only just fractions if we consider the whole time of our planet- at least as much as we know it. But, to me, we need some sort of order- some references- to act sanely in life, to have hope to move forward or simply to have some sort of balmy notion that we are not condemned here to live- there's some logic or design behind it.


message 29: by Chris (new) - added it

Chris Wow, absolutely brilliant review Gaurav. Amazing work, your insights are always a pleasure to read.


Gaurav Chris wrote: "Wow, absolutely brilliant review Gaurav. Amazing work, your insights are always a pleasure to read."

Thanks a lot Chris, you've been kind to appreciate this very modest write-up :)


Isidora Wonderful review, Gaurav. Thank you for reminding me that it's time to revisit this book.


Gaurav Isidora wrote: "Wonderful review, Gaurav. Thank you for reminding me that it's time to revisit this book."

Thanks a lot Isidora for your kind words, I'm glad that this generous write-up encouraged you to revisit the book. Would be looking to read your opinion on it when you get to it :)


Gaurav Hina wrote: "What an outstanding review, I read it in a sense of awe. Brilliantly done."

Thanks a lot Hina, you've been kind :)


message 34: by Devendra (new)

Devendra Kumar Wonderful review, Gaurav :)


Caterina Gaurav wrote: "What if this whole life is just a random act ....But, to me, we need some sort of order- some references- to act sanely in life, to have hope to move forward or simply to have some sort of balmy notion that we are not condemned here to live..."

Yes, I agree. Thanks again for your insights; there is still something I don't "get" about this book but perhaps would see more now if I tried to re-read ... although maybe it would be more fruitful (for me) to try something else by Camus instead.


Gaurav Caterina wrote: "Gaurav wrote: "What if this whole life is just a random act ....But, to me, we need some sort of order- some references- to act sanely in life, to have hope to move forward or simply to have some s..."

Well, you may go for The myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel which elaborate his philosophy quite eloquently. I find The Fall is also a good introduction to his philosophy, besides there is a collection of his short stories- Exile and Kingdom which may be read.


Caterina Gaurav wrote: "Well, you may go for The myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel which elaborate his philosophy quite eloquently. I find The Fall is also a good introduction to his philosophy, besides there is a collection of his short stories- Exile and Kingdom which may be read."

Thanks for the suggestions!


Gaurav Caterina wrote: "Gaurav wrote: "Well, you may go for The myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel which elaborate his philosophy quite eloquently. I find The Fall is also a good introduction to his philosophy, besides there ..."

You're welcome, Caterina! My pleasure:)


Gaurav Devendra wrote: "Wonderful review, Gaurav :)"

Thanks a lot, you've been kind :)


message 40: by Hasanali (new)

Hasanali Wonderful review, mate, you've really captured the essence of this classic. Outstandingly done.


Gaurav Hasanali wrote: "Wonderful review, mate, you've really captured the essence of this classic. Outstandingly done."

Thanks a lot for your kind words :)


message 42: by Ajay (last edited Nov 05, 2017 06:49AM) (new)

Ajay Singh Fine review of the great book, Gaurav. Camus is one of my favorite author, I'm glad to see this beautiful tribute to the great man. The abusurdness prevalent in our life is so well explained by Camus, he died quite young, I wonder had he lived more what would've his contribution to the world.


Gaurav Ajay wrote: "Fine review of the great book, Gaurav. Camus is one of my favorite author, I'm glad to see this beautiful tribute to the great man. The abusurdness prevalent in our life is so well explained by Cam..."

Thanks a lot Ajay for your kind words, it's nice to know that you also like Camus, yeah- it's a tantalizing thought that what would have been his literary oeuvre had he lived longer. Thanks for stopping by :)


message 44: by Nitesh (new)

Nitesh Oustandingly done, Gaurav. You've really captured spirit of the book. Great achievement!!


Gaurav Nitesh wrote: "Oustandingly done, Gaurav. You've really captured spirit of the book. Great achievement!!"

Thanks a lot for your kind words, you've been generous :)


message 46: by Karan (new)

Karan Singh Excellent review, I really liked your analysis here.


message 47: by Ilse (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ilse Great, thought-provoking analysis Gaurav, a good reminder to revisit this. Should actions be judged by intentions or by their outcomes? The answer to this philosophical question can make a great practical difference in court - not so to Meursault. In some sense, I observed there can be found a certain consolation in the universe’s indifference towards the human fate, in the absurdity of life, especially in the face of death – so there is truth in Meursault acknowledging this indifference as ‘tender’.


Gaurav Thanks a lot for your kind words, Ilse :) I'm glad that this modest write up encourages you to revisit this classic. The philosophical question you put there is really intriguing but if really go by intention then it might be hard to ascertain real intentions of people because, as intelligent beings, we are expert in showing fake emotions and intentions hence, I guess, in order to deal objectively we take evidences as basis to judge though at times it we may fail to do so. As for indifference towards absurdity of life, I agree that people seek for easy solutions such as references or indifference to avoid the absurdity of life, however to accept that very absurdity of life and to live thereby exploring for possible meanings of life is the onset of true existence. Thanks a lot for your thought- provoking comment :)


message 49: by Sonu (new) - added it

Sonu Yadav brilliant write-up, adding this one, seems a good one.


Gaurav Sonu wrote: "brilliant write-up, adding this one, seems a good one."

Thanks a lot, will be nice to read what you make out of it :)


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