30 Day Book Challenge Day 6 – A Book That Makes Me Sad

And now for the opposite to yesterday – a book that makes me sad (nawww – hey wait, I said nawww to a book that makes me happy yesterday! Versatile, that nawww is. Anyway…). Again, this was quite difficult to pick, and hard not to choose books that I have already decided for later ‘days’ in this challenge.

Consequently, after much deliberation, I have decided that The Outsider (aka The Stranger) by Albert Camus is a book that makes me sad. This is a bizarre book that dabbles in existentialism and absurdism, based entirely around the character Meursault, who irrationally kills a man, this single act dividing the book up into before the crime, and after the crime. Before the crime he seems emotionally detached after the death of his mother, and remains so up until the murder itself. Then it jumps to when Meursault finds himself in prison, and on trial, where his emotional detachment is brought up and seen as a lack of remorse, something he himself eventually admits to the reader. I’ll end the description of the story there so as not to spoil it for any potential readers, but needless to say, it’s bizarre to read a story told from a protagonist who seems so stoic, so apathetic.

"The Outsider" by Albert Camus

I think it is the character himself which makes me sad with this story. Sure, on an intellectual level I love it, and think it’s fascinating, and the philosophical arguments that stem from this novel become quite deep and complicated (at least to somebody like me who doesn’t study philosophy). But to watch someone so disconnected from society, someone so accepting of their fate and the consequences of their actions that they don’t particular care about their actions, just ends up being so depressing. Because of his character traits, it is difficult to even feel sympathy for him, and when the book ends, as a reader I was left feeling empty and emotionless myself – perhaps this was the desired effect?

Has anybody else read this, or any other works by Camus? If so, what were your thoughts and opinions?

7 thoughts on “30 Day Book Challenge Day 6 – A Book That Makes Me Sad

  1. Oh, Camus. He makes me want to bash my head into a wall. Many a night were spent preparing for college philosophy classes with The Stranger (sounds dirty, I know). Ultimately, I loved the radical character development of the strange man who could care less about his mother dying or being married.

    It is a testament to all of the things different about Western/ American culture and many of the things wrong with it. It is insightful because it brings existentialism into a much more approachable light. Existentialism isn’t some crazy branch of the already crazy subject of philosophy, but a way of life. Although Meursault lives his life in a seemingly miserable and pessimistic way, he just didn’t think about whether his life was happy. He just was. Great summary of the book! It’s hard to get everything down without giving it all away!

    • Hahaha, I am so glad I never had to study Camus, and only read it out of curiosity – it would have driven me insane. It is an interesting book, and one of those books that I find is far more enjoyable to discuss than to actually read! But it is also a book which is impossible to discuss without reading it, precisely because of its existential nature. But I agree with you, it is very insightful and very clever. I will one day get around to reading more of Camus’ work. One day…

  2. I read The Stranger both in French and in English, and I have to say that I didn’t like it in either language. As you said, he is so apathetic to everything and doesn’t care about his own actions, and I just couldn’t find anything to like about him or about the book in general. Perhaps if I learned a bit more about existentialism before reading it again I would like it, but I can’t bring myself to read the book for a third time.

    • Yeah, I know what you mean, it can be really hard to enjoy a book when you find you don’t connect in any way to the story or the character. It is really why I said it makes me sad, because it leaves me feeling empty, and, funnily enough, makes me feel like an outsider to the story, like I’m not really allowed in but am just awkwardly viewing it like a fly on the wall.

  3. Often I find myself shying away from ‘existential and philosophical’ books.. mostly because I feel I might be too dum to get them 😛 But this actually made me interested in the book. I want to read it. I think I might set a reading goal for myself – something real, something touchable. That ‘pressure’ might be just what I need, seeing how I get closer to the goal and so on. Not a writing goal though.. not yet 😛

    • Hahaha, yeah right! You’re not dumb! If I can kind of understand such books, so can you! 🙂
      Yeah, reading goals are good, that’s why I set myself the 50 books in a year goal, and have made sure it is visible on the side of my blog, so it kind of taunts me if I slack off and fall behind. If all goes to plan, that number on the side of my blog should shift up to 6 books read in the next few days…
      And yeah, this book is interesting, it’s one of those books that you don’t want to dwell on but it kind of stays with you.

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