Our protagonist, Meursault, is an unconformist. Existing in the realms of dysfunctional emotional disconnection, he experiences both the death of his mother and his engagement with a profound unfeeling. Then, a random act of violence on a sunny summer beach catapults his life into shadow. He’s in trouble with the law and experiencing the sharpest edge of the world’s ‘tender indifference’, but even then, his lack of expression and feeling may be enough to condemn him.
This is not a comfortable read but then, as an existentialist classic, it was never going to be. Yet, the book’s haunting, lingering presence even once you’ve put it down means that it is a must-read for any literary fan, and it’s a short one, too, so there’s really no excuse. Come on, pick it up. Get uncomfortable.
The Outsider was first published in France by Libraire Gallimard in 1942. It is available in English translation by Sandra Smith from Penguin Modern Classics.