18 August 2006

Albert Camus's "The Outsider" 1942-2006

Albert Camus's novel The Outsider ("L'Etranger") died today. Or maybe yesterday. The world-famous absurdist novel, about a man who shoots an Arab for no reason and then refuses to feel guilty for what he has done, was wounded in a fatal explosion of irony at the weekend when it was revealed that the book was at the heart of President George Bush's summer reading.

The Outsider's last cigaretteThe Outsider was born in 1942 to a union of absurdist philosophy and the retired goalkeeper of the University of Algiers second XI. A precocious child, by the late 1940's it was already to be seen hanging around with the likes of Jack Kerouac, its habit of wearing black polo-neck sweaters and chain-smoking Gauloises cigarettes, along with its habitual cry of "Je suis l'├ętranger, daddio" making it easy to spot on its trips outside the smoke-filled interiors of bebop jazz clubs.

Tiring of its dim surroundings, The Outsider soon found itself migrating to university campuses across the globe. It came to Britain in the 1950's where it soon became famed among duffel-coated male students as the key to French philosophy, to the coolness of alienation and to copping off with female students. With its influence ever-increasing, by the late 1960's The Outsider was to be found at the head of protests and sit-ins across the globe, from the riot-torn streets of Paris to the slightly disordered desks of the Pinner College Upper VIth Form Geography Class.

As both it and its friends drifted into middle age, The Outsider began to abandon its radical past, eventually being persuaded to appear on A-level syllabuses, where it was to confuse generations of teenagers. Despite this it was occasionally to be found, looking a little tattered, hanging around in coffee bars with would-be intellectuals, a cigarette dangling from its lips, still trying to impress young women.

Albert Camus's The Outsider will be buried in a student flat, beneath several posters of Che Guevara, some Leonard Cohen CD's and a rucksack full of dirty washing due to be taken back to mum next weekend. Anyone who does not cry will be hanged.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

so i dont need to read it then?