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When we turn to the question of Camus™s in¬‚uence on subse-
quent French writers, we encounter similar dif¬culties. There are
few French novels that resemble The Stranger. However, The Stranger,
as ¬ltered through Sartre™s reading, exerted a theoretical in¬‚uence
on the development of French ¬ction and it was discussed by two
theoreticians and practitioners of the new novel. Both Nathalie
Saurraute and Alain Robbe-Grillet considered The Stranger a pre-
cursor of their work. Once more, the ordinary reader sees little
in common between Robbe-Grillet™s Jealousy and The Stranger. But
Sar-raute and Robbe-Grillet argue that, while the French avant-
garde of the mid-1950s has relegated the absurd to history, the ways
that The Stranger criticized the narration, plot, characters and lan-
guage of the traditional novel in¬‚uenced their experiments.
Sarraute™s thesis is that Camus innovates while reassuring the
reader. She stresses the literary aspects of Meursault™s discourse:
his metaphors and his allusion to his education. She notes that
Camus does not follow American novelists in depicting his character
from the outside. Rather he does it ˜from the inside, by the classic
Why and how we read The Stranger 101
technique of introspection dear to lovers of psychology™ (Nathalie
`
Sarraute, L˜Ere du soup¸on (Paris: Gallimard, 1956), p. 15). The use
c
of the journal and the ˜I™ form comfort the reader, even if they are
deployed in non-traditional ways. Indeed, they regain their meaning
in Part 2, where Meursault becomes aware of his rebellion.
If we compare this interpretation with Sartre™s, we see how the
innovations of The Stranger have been assimilated. To Sarraute,
the novel is a halfway house between traditional ¬ction and the
bolder experiments she is undertaking. Robbe-Grillet expands these
insights, ¬rst explaining what he likes about The Stranger. Anticipat-
ing the new novel, it criticizes itself, offers no story and has a main
character who is not rounded or convincing.
But to Robbe-Grillet the absence of such things is felt as an an-
guish, which stems from Camus™s residual humanism. The absurd “
here Robbe-Grillet could have drawn on The Myth “ is impossible
unless the traditional view of man as the centre of the universe is
retained, however dimly. This is the difference, Robbe-Grillet argues,
between Camus and the new novel, where objects are looked at for
themselves and are not anthropomorphized. The world is ˜neither
reasonable nor absurd. It is, that™s all™ (Alain Robbe-Grillet, Pour un
nouveau roman (Paris: Gallimard, 1964), p. 21).
Robbe-Grillet sees the same regret for a lost human domination
in Nausea and in Francis Ponge™s The Voice of Things, where objects
are not “ despite Ponge™s af¬rmation “ depicted for themselves but
receive human attributes. In the new novel, so the argument runs,
man as master of the universe is not merely no longer present but
has never existed.
Further, to complicate the matter of Camus™s relationship with
the next generation of French writers, the new novelists attack the
notion of the artist who gives moral and political lessons. This is a
repudiation of Camus and Sartre, although chie¬‚y of the post-war
Camus and Sartre. By contrast, Robbe-Grillet seems to me correct
when he sees in the Camus“Sartre“Ponge debates of the early 1940s
the origins of the world view found in the new novel. My only crit-
icism is that he and especially Sarraute underestimate Part 1 of
The Stranger, which is less reassuring than Part 2. The British writ-
ers of the 1950s, labelled by the press the Angry Young Men, had
often read Camus. They tended to put him together with Sartre,
102 THE STRANGER

which would have appalled him. The clearest case of The Stranger™s
in¬‚uence is Alan Sillitoe™s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.
Like Camus, Sillitoe uses the diary form for a character who would
never have kept a diary. Like Camus, he depicts a young man who
lives outside of ordinary social norms. There the resemblance ends:
Sillitoe™s character conducts a war against society; he has none of
Meursault™s indifference.
Colin Wilson, the author of The Outsider, knows more about phi-
losophy and literature. Eliot and Joyce, Sartre and Camus in¬‚uenced
him. But he turned away from Camus and Sartre because they were
˜negative™. To Wilson, Camus™s belief that ˜human existence was ba-
sically absurd was silly. How could such problems be solved except by
thinking?™ This self-satis¬ed proclamation took no heed of decades
of British as well as French thought, not to mention the Germans,
Husserl and Heidegger. Indeed it almost justi¬es Heidegger™s view
that ˜Nur auf Deutsch kann Man Denken™. (Interviews with Britain™s
Angry Young Men conducted by Dale Salwak, Literary Voices 2 (San
Bernardino: The Borgo Press), pp. 7 and 90“1.)
By the time of Camus™s death in 1960, the in¬‚uence of The Stranger
had been absorbed by French writers. This does not mean that ei-
ther the novel or its author ceased to be important to the French
avant-garde. After being out of favour in the 1960s, Camus is now
fashionable as the critic of Marxism, of the Hegelian view of his-
tory and of messianism in general. The new philosophers have read
him and use him against Sartre. Whereas French intellectuals of
the 1950s generally sided with Sartre during the 1952 quarrel, in
the 1980s the victory is retrospectively awarded to Camus. The new
philosophers have studied The Rebel and they would not accept my
earlier comment that it opens few political perspectives.
If The Stranger is less important in this context, some of the crit-
ical studies it has spurred show that it anticipated certain trends
in what might vaguely be called left-wing thinking. As stated in
Chapters 2 and 3, it shows that power is amorphous and creates
an alienation that pervades society; opposed social groups ¬nd it
dif¬cult to explain much less to combat their situation. This view “
along with such developments as the impossibility of general revolt,
the refusal of a rationality that is deemed spurious and a scepticism
about language “ crops up in the later Barthes, in Foucault and
elsewhere.
Why and how we read The Stranger 103
Finally we must restate “ at the risk of being banal “ that The
Stranger™s importance does not come from its appeal to a French
avant-garde. Rather, it lies in the way that the novel has caught
fundamental traits of modern individualism: the determination to
trust one™s own experience while distrusting the many and varied
forms of authority, the attempt to face the absence of transcendence
and to enjoy this life, and the recognition that it is dif¬cult to use
language to say even the simplest things.



14 Suggestions for further reading
Readers who wish to know more of why and how The Stranger is
read may consult some of the works that have been written on it. No
attempt can be made here to describe or even to list the enormous
number of books and articles in which the novel is analysed. For such
information the reader may consult the work of Brian T. Fitch and
Peter C. Hoy. Fitch offers an excellent bibliography at the end of his
book ˜L™Etranger™ d™Albert Camus, un texte, ses lecteurs, leurs lectures
(Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1972). Fitch and Hoy are the co-authors
of Calepins de biblographie: Albert Camus I (Paris: Lettres modernes,
1972), which lists French-language studies of Camus published up
to 1970. Articles and books, whether in English or French, are
regularly noted in the Revue des Lettres modernes series on Camus
(see below), which is edited by Fitch. All that is attempted here is
to mention some of the milestones in criticism of The Stranger, to
review the English translations and to comment on the ¬lm.
In the Anglo-Saxon world, Camus™s audience is especially wide.
Anglo-Saxons have always tended to support him against Sartre,
to approve his critique of Marxism and to admire his concern “
which seems to them characteristically French “ for moral values.
Three books were especially in¬‚uential in disseminating his thought:
Germaine Br´ e™s Camus (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
e
1959); John Cruickshank™s Albert Camus and the Literature of
Revolt (Oxford University Press, 1960); Philip Thody™s Camus
(London: Hamish Hamilton, 1958). All three have sections on
The Stranger, which they place in the evolution of Camus™s work
and, since all three are clearly written, they have attracted a non-
specialist as well as a specialist audience.
104 THE STRANGER

Another in¬‚uential text was a preface written by Camus himself
for an American edition of The Stranger (reproduced OC 1,1928),
which stresses Meursault™s passion for truth. Although Camus
warns against idealizing Meursault, this piece, which depicts
Meursault as the individual persecuted by society, while ignoring
his alienation, his working-class roots and the way he ridicules ide-
alism, could lead the reader to consider Meursault a hero or a martyr.
At least one observer struggled against interpretations that ig-
nored the troubling aspects of the novel (Ren´ Girard, ˜Camus™
e
Stranger revisited™, PMLA, December 1964, pp. 519“33). But there
was in Anglo-Saxon culture a tendency either to discover posi-
tive values in Meursault or else to lament the absence of them.
Either way, the incomplete and critical qualities of Meursault™s
discourse were somewhat neglected. This tendency was accentu-
ated by Stuart Gilbert™s translation, which makes The Stranger a
rather more comfortable novel than L™Etranger. Recently a good
article on the moral values of The Plague revived the debate about
Camus as a moralist in the French meaning of the term: Tony Judt
˜On The Plague™, New York Review of Books, 29, November 2001,
p. 258.
Readers paid little attention to the colonial theme until the ad-
vent of decolonization and the furious debates about the Algerian
War which saddened Camus™s last years. In 1943 Sartre did not
dwell on the murder of the Arab, although Cyril Connolly discusses
it in his preface. In the 1960s The Stranger became politically contro-
versial, and Conor Cruise O™Brien expressed doubts about the way
Camus handled the murder. Both Meursault™s indifference to the
beating up of the Arab woman and the depiction of the legal system
were criticized by O™Brien. No French court would have condemned
Meursault for the murder of an armed Arab, O™Brien argues, so the
image of Meursault, the rebel, is unreal (C. C. O™Brien, Albert Camus,
London: Fontana/Collins, 1970).
Since the 1960s the colonial issue has remained a motif in Camus
studies. Much research has been done on the French-Algeria of the
1930s and here the best starting-point is the edition of Camus™s
Alger-R´publicain journalism: Fragments d™un combat, Cahiers Albert
e
Camus 3, edited by Jacqueline L´ vi-Valensi and Andr´ Abbou (Paris:
e e
Gallimard, 1978).
Why and how we read The Stranger 105
Readers interested in this theme may also trace it through
Camus™s later books and may linger over the early pages of The
Plague. The journalist, Rambert, comes to Algeria to do an arti-
cle on the Arab question, but he never writes it. This is another
enigmatic episode where the unwritten text lingers as an absence
alongside the many texts “ Tarrou™s journal, Paneloux™s sermons
and Rieux™s narrative “ that constitute the novel. In The Exile and
the Kingdom Camus could deal more openly with the issue because
the Arab rebellion had clari¬ed the relationship between colonizer
and colonized. It is also interesting to compare his insights into
colonialism with those of Conrad, Forster and Orwell.
But the main body of recent criticism of The Stranger deals quite
properly with its language, structure and narrative technique. Two
excellent studies of the way Meursault tells his story are M.-G.
Barrier™s L™Art du r´cit dans ˜L™Etranger™ (Paris: Nizet, 1962) and
e
Brian T. Fitch™s Narrateur et narration dans ˜L™Etranger™ d™Albert
Camus (Paris: Minard, 1968). The Minard Lettres modernes series of
Camus volumes, edited by Fitch, begins with a number devoted to
The Stranger (Autour de ˜L™Etranger™, Albert Camus 1 (Paris: Revue des
Lettres modernes, 1968)). The whole series is of special importance
to students of literary criticism. Such readers will also enjoy Uri
Eisenzweig™s Les Jeux de l™´criture dans ˜L™Etranger™ de Camus (Paris:
e
Lettres modernes, 1983), which draws on Derrida™s thought to anal-
yse the various kinds of language in the novel.
Literary theory has been spurred by The Stranger and may also
help to explicate it. Here, my choice is inevitably arbitrary and I
shall do no more than mention two texts that may be helpful in ac-
counting for Part 1, Chapter 6: Michel Foucault™s L™Ordre du discours
(Paris: Gallimard, 1971) and Pierre Macherey™s Pour une th´orie de
e
la production litt´raire (Paris: Masp´ ro, 1966).
e e
Of the many studies of different aspects of The Stranger several
may be “ once more arbitrarily “ cited. In Chapter 2, an argument
is made against the notion that Meursault may be seen as a pagan,
but it is only fair to note that many readers disagree. A good de-
fence of their view is Robert Champigny™s Sur un h´ros pa¨en (Paris:
e ±
Gallimard, 1959). An article on the important subject of ambiguity
is Brian Fitch™s ˜Le paradigme herm´ neutique chez Camus™,
e
in Albert Camus, edited by Raymond Guy-Crosier (Gainsville:
106 THE STRANGER

University of Florida Press, 1980). This whole volume is main-
stream academic criticism. Carl A. Viggiani™s article ˜Camus™
L™Etranger™, PMLA, December 1956, pp. 865“87, is a suggestive in-
terpretation of the novel™s ending. For the language used in Part 1,
Chapters 1 and 6, a good place to start is Stephen Ullmann™s ˜The two
styles of Camus™, in The Image in the Modern French Novel (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1960), pp. 236“99. A computer-based
study of the colours in The Stranger, which also shows how useful
computers can be in literary criticism, is Robin Adamson™s ˜The
colour vocabulary in L™Etranger™, Association for Literature and Lin-
guistics Computer Bulletin, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 221“37.
Biographical information is given in abundance in Herbert
Lottman™s Albert Camus, a Biography (New York: Doubleday, 1979).
In particular Lottman gives many details about the publication of
The Stranger.
The psychoanalytical approach to the novel is fruitful, and I have
drawn heavily on Jean Gassin™s L™Univers symbolique d™Albert Camus
(Paris: Minard, 1981).
Finally, for the general reader who does not wish to tackle the Let-
tres modernes series there are several guides to The Stranger that are
written in clear, simple language. They include K. R. Dutton™s Camus™
˜L™Etranger™: From Text to Criticism (Macquarie University, 1976),
G. V. Banks™s Camus™ ˜L™Etranger™ (London: Edward Arnold, 1976),
Rosemarie Jones™s Camus: ˜L™Etranger™ and ˜La Chute™ (London: Grant
and Cutler, 1980) and Adele King™s Notes on ˜L™Etranger™ (London:
Longman, York Press, 1980). There is also an edition of the French
text with useful notes for the Anglo-Saxon reader: L™Etranger,
edited by Germaine Br´ e and Carlos Lynes (London: Methuen,
e
1958).

15 Translations
Stuart Gilbert™s translation is partially responsible for The
Stranger™s success in the Anglo-Saxon world (Albert Camus, The
Outsider (Hamish Hamilton, 1946, Penguin 1961); references are
to the Penguin edition). Gilbert™s merit was to offer a clear version
that ¬‚ows well. If he may be criticized, it is because, while L™Etranger
does not explain, his translation does.
Why and how we read The Stranger 107
One should of course remember that he was translating the orig-
inal 1942 version and that Camus made at least two revisions: in
1947 and between 1949 and 1953. In general the changes in-
creased the concision of the novel, which is another reason why one
should hesitate before criticizing Gilbert. Two such changes are of
interest in themselves. Camus took out a statement that Meursault
masturbated in prison: ˜Next day I did like the others™ (Gilbert, p. 80).
Missing, too, is a concluding, poetic sentence of Part 1, Chapter 3:
˜through the sleep-bound house the little plaintive sound rose slowly
like a ¬‚ower growing out of the silence and the darkness™ (Gilbert,
p. 41). The reference to the ¬‚ower reminds us of the geraniums on the
mother™s grave and makes the links among her, the Arab woman and
Salamano™s dog more explicit, while the metaphorical language in-
vites us to see connections between Chapter 3 and Chapters 1 and 6
of Part 1.
Gilbert was, then, translating a slightly fuller version of
L™Etranger, but he may still be said to elaborate on it more than he
need have done. He makes a few mistakes: the Arab nurse™s smock
becomes ˜blue™ (Gilbert, p. 16), which falsi¬es the colour scheme.
More importantly, he shrinks from the sexual frankness of ˜j™ai eu
tr` s envie d™elle™ and uses the euphemism ˜I couldn™t take my eyes off
e
her™ (p. 41). Gilbert seems ill at ease with the earthy, working-class
¬‚avour of The Stranger.
But he is even less at ease with its remoteness. He renders
`
˜Emmanuel riait a perdre haleine™ by ˜Emmanuel chuckled, and
panted in my ear, “we™ve made it”™ (p. 34). There is no reason to
add a piece of direct speech by Emmanuel who b´ longs to the seg-
e
ment of the working class that least trusts language.
Substitution of direct for indirect and free indirect speech is the
gravest fault in the translation. C´ leste gives his evidence in indirect
e
speech but Gilbert renders it by direct speech (p. 93), ignoring the
theme that C´ leste is not being allowed by the court to say what
e
he would like to say. In Part 1, Chapter 3, Gilbert turns many of
Raymond™s utterances into direct speech, such as ˜You™ve knocked
around the world a bit and I dare say you can help me. And then I™ll
be your pal for life; I never forget anyone who does me a good turn™
(p. 37). Gilbert seems to have added a phrase here too, but it is more
important that by letting Raymond speak directly he is increasing
108 THE STRANGER

the authenticity of Raymond™s friendship for Meursault. This is a
complex matter because, as I argued in Chapter 3, there is more
direct speech in this episode than elsewhere. But it is surely wrong
to increase the amount, because the presence of indirect speech also
enables the reader to maintain a certain distance from Raymond.
Distance is less of a theme in the English text and Gilbert seems
uncertain of how to handle Meursault™s ˜I think™ and ˜I believe™.
When for once they are omitted by Camus, he inserts them. When
ˆ
Meursault writes ˜Maman, sans etre ath´ e, n™avait jamais pens´ de
e e
`
son vivant a la religion™, Gilbert translated by ˜So far as I knew, my
mother . . .™ (p. 15). But this is “ as has also been argued “ a moment
of ostentatious omniscience that draws our attention to Meursault™s
agnosticism.
Joseph Laredo™s new translation (Hamish Hamilton, 1982,
Penguin, 1983; references are to the Penguin edition) is more faith-
ful to the dif¬culties of the text. Laredo corrects Gilbert™s mistakes
and gets the balance between direct and indirect speech right. He
does not try to blur the discrepancies in the time sequence on the
opening page. In general, his tone is franker and more colloquial
than Gilbert™s. He translates the ˜j™ai eu tr` s envie d™elle™ by ˜I really
e
fancied her™ (p. 37); where Gilbert uses ˜one™ Laredo tends to use
˜you™, and when Raymond says ˜copain™ Laredo renders it by ˜mate™
(p. 33). Gilbert gratuitously inserts ˜old boy™ into Raymond™s speech,
but Laredo omits it.
His translation has a working-class tone that is present in the
French and that also accentuates, by contrast, the intellectual qual-
ity of Meursault™s language. Precisely because it is more colloquial,
Laredo™s version is British and not American, which may explain
why a new American translation by Mathew Ward was published
by Knopf in 1989. Ward was highly rated as a writer and translator.
He died in 1990.


16 Lo Straniero
It remains to note the ¬lm of the novel: Lo Straniero, 1967, directed
by Luchino Visconti with Marcello Mastroianni as Meursault and
Anna Karina as Marie. Although Visconti might seem, because of
his ties with neo-realism and with the Italian Communist Party, well
Why and how we read The Stranger 109
able to interpret the colonial aspect of The Stranger, he fails to do so,
except in one good scene where Meursault arrives in prison to ¬nd
himself surrounded by Arabs, one of whom plays the ¬‚ute.
More importantly, Visconti is unable to ¬nd a cinematic language
to render Meursault™s puzzling narration. The best scene in the ¬lm
shows the funeral procession struggling along the road while P´ rez e
darts through the ¬elds. Both the futility of mourning and P´ rez™se
authenticity are rendered. But one can only wonder why Visconti
did not attempt to match the seeming neutrality of Meursault™s
discourse by letting the camera move silently over the Algiers streets
or over the objects in Meursault™s ¬‚at.
As a critic of Visconti™s work has put it, the director ˜crowds out
the silence with a host of unnecessary and obtrusive presences™
(Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Luchino Visconti, 2nd edn (New York: Viking
Press, 1973), p. 184). Indeed, Visconti provides the information that
Camus withheld, giving us Meursault™s ¬rst name “ Arthur “ and
his date of birth, 1903. Mastroianni is too expressive in his gestures
and grimaces (Visconti would have preferred Alain Delon, who is
more of a tough guy), and Anna Karina, while suitably sexy, is too
much a tragic heroine during the trial scene.
Visconti does stress the Algiers and working-class surroundings,
while the scenes with Raymond are good. But even the shots of the
port clutter the ¬lm and remind us that The Stranger is not a realist
novel and that ¬gurative detail “ like the advertisement for Bastos
cigarettes “ cannot replace the clash of languages that lies at the
core of the novel, and that could surely be rendered by a different
kind of cinema. Should there not be another ¬lm of The Stranger?

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