The enduring power of Albert Camus' L'Étranger
It's been 75 years since Albert Camus published L'Étranger — usually translated as The Stranger or The Outsider. And it continues to be the most translated book from French into English. Given how intense questions about "the other" are across the globe — who really belongs where and who doesn't — Camus' book is even more relevant than ever. Radio Canada producer Danny Braun speaks with a novelist, a rapper, some academics and a former death row inmate to delve into the enduring appeal of L'Étranger — both to the intellect and to the heart. **This episode originally aired December 8, 2017.
Written by an outsider about an outsider, L'Étranger holds an irresistible fascination for all those who read it. The author, Albert Camus, came from an illiterate family in Algeria, a pied-noir, neither fully at home in either Algeria or France, or anywhere else for that matter. Meursault, the main character, is also alienated from his surroundings, and eventually kills an Arab without really understanding why. First published in 1942, the novel still speaks to us — witness how societies in the West and elsewhere are still grappling with what to do with "the other", as the rise in both Islamic violence and Islamophobia would attest.
The enduring appeal of the book is as personal as it is political.
Also heard in the program:
- Kamel Daoud is the author of Meursault, contre-enquête, based on Camus' L'Étranger, but in Kamel's version, the Arab killed by Meursault is given a name, "Musa".
- Marcelle Mahasella oversees the Camus archives at the Méjanes Library in Aix-en-Provence.
- Robert Zaretsky teaches French history at the University of Houston, Texas. He's written two books about Camus: Camus: Elements of a Life and A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning.
- Roger Grenier (d. November 2017) was a writer, journalist and friend of Camus, who'd hired him after the war to work at Combat, the underground newspaper of the French Resistance.
**This episode was produced by Danny Braun.