Camus, The Stranger

Dec 2010
2,331
But, as you pointed out, in his critique of The Stranger, and it is an insightful critique as you say, he states that "Camus shows off a bit by quoting passages from Jaspers, Heidegger and Kierkegaard, whom, by the way, he does not always seem to have quite understood."
Camus wouldn't, then, understand what he was proposing in the novel. It might very well have been existentialist principles.

Three years later, long before his friendship with Camus and Sartre broke off their friendship, Camus is saying "Sartre is an existntialist, and the only book of ideas that I have publishe, The Myth of Sisyphus, was directed against the so-called extentialist philosophers."
Who Sartre (the King existentialist) says Camus doesn't fully understand.

Insightful though Sartre may have been, he was not infallible. We need to look more closely at Sisyphus and at The Stranger and ask whether the former was perhaps directed against the extentialist philosophers and Sartre misunderstood Camus.
Sartre is pretty damn cohesive as long as one tracks him chronologically. Again, if Camus misunderstood the existentialists I don't see why we should be taking his side in the matter.

In this context, I think we would need also to look again at the 1955 preface for The Stranger which I quoted in full in this thread. Camus had some ideas which are not entirely consistent with Sartre's interpretation of the story.
This I addressed earlier. After writing, an author can only analyze a novel as any other reader, and this says more about Camus than the novel.

Finally, I again remark that Camus himself said in Sisyphus that "like great works, great ideas have more meaning than they are conscious of."
So he doesn't really know the bounds of the thing he wrote.

No one can say that Sartre's understanding was wrong--the meaning of the story is subjective in the readers consciousness. But we are probably close to the truth if we say that Sartre didn't understand Camus.
I don't follow.
 

Patito de Hule

Ad Honorem
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
Camus wouldn't, then, understand what he was proposing in the novel. It might very well have been existentialist principles.
Well, at least the lively discussion I hoped for is developing. :)
If Camus didn't understand Jaspers et al. as Sartre claims, then you might have a point here. But I am supposing that perhaps Sartre didn't understand Camus. In that case, it would be Sartre who doesn't understand Camus's intention in the novel, the essay, or both.


Who Sartre (the King existentialist) says Camus doesn't fully understand.
Sartre says Camus doesn't fully understand. Perhaps, as I suggested, Sartre didn't fully understand Camus. Or perhaps Sartre's comment was just a cheap shot (I doubt that) at someone who disagreed with the early existentialists.


Sartre is pretty damn cohesive as long as one tracks him chronologically. Again, if Camus misunderstood the existentialists I don't see why we should be taking his side in the matter.
Sartre had, as I pointed out earlier, a cohesive system of philosophy. Camus did not. Neither chronologically nor at the time he wrote Sisyphus and The Stranger. Sartre was brilliant, but my point that you quoted here was that Sartre was never infallible. That point stands and is obvious. Sartre says that Camus misunderstood Jaspers et al. Maybe, as Camus said, he simply disagreed with them and Sartre took that as misunderstanding.


This I addressed earlier. After writing, an author can only analyze a novel as any other reader, and this says more about Camus than the novel.
Nevertheless, the author has memory of what he wrote, albeit more or less distorted. Thirteen years after the fact Camus stated "this is what I was trying to do." In the long run, we can agree or disagree with what he remembers, but it is necessarily a credible primary source of what he was trying to do. Whether Sartre ever thought so or not.


So he doesn't really know the bounds of the thing he wrote.
This is in reply to the aphorism that great works have more meaning than they are conscious of. No. Camus has no way of knowing how people even in his own time, let alone years later, might find meaning in his work. That certainly doesn't preclude him from knowing what he was trying to do only three years later.


I don't follow.
Only two sentences here to follow and they are separate:
1) "No one can say that Sartre's understanding was wrong--the meaning of the story is subjective in the readers consciousness."

This is a clear conclusion from the aphorism just quoted.

2) "But we are probably close to the truth if we say that Sartre didn't understand Camus."

This is my conclusion from the entire post.
 

Patito de Hule

Ad Honorem
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
I think I've gone a little far astray on this since it's supposed to be about The Stranger. So I posted what I was trying to say about how a novel means in my blog. If you want to read it there, it's in Patito de Hule's blog

I will try to keep any further remarks in this thread directly relevant to The Stranger. I'd hate to think all my ruminations scared anyone off.
 
Dec 2010
2,331
I think I've gone a little far astray on this since it's supposed to be about The Stranger. So I posted what I was trying to say about how a novel means in my blog. If you want to read it there, it's in Patito de Hule's blog

I will try to keep any further remarks in this thread directly relevant to The Stranger. I'd hate to think all my ruminations scared anyone off.
I don't think one can discuss a novel like The Stranger without venturing a bit outside of it.
 

Patito de Hule

Ad Honorem
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
I read somewhere recently (probably Wikipedia or something like that) that Absurdity is the tension between man's intuitive need to seek the meaning of life and his realization that the meaning of life is unknowable.

Now we aren't reading The Myth of Sisyphus, so I can't fairly ask whether that is consistent with the definition given there. But this story is supposed to be the essence of Camus's philosophy. So is that definition consistent with the meaning of this story?
 

Patito de Hule

Ad Honorem
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
I've been jumping back and forth between Sartre's Nausea (Nausee) and Vladimir Nabokov's Despair (Otchayanie). Although they are more similar to each other than they are to The Stranger, there are similarities among them. The thought that struck me here was whether there is any social point to be made.

The authors of both Despair and Nausea both deny that there is any social point to be made in them. The central theme in Nausea seems to be nausea (or angst, or fear) but just a description of that. Likewise Despair seems to center on the theme of Despair. The Stranger, also is centered around the theme of alienation, as the commonly used title The Outsider suggests. But whether consciously or subconsciously, the last chapter seems to carry a lot of views of Camus's later feeling about capital punishment. As I pointed out earlier, he uses the same story about Meursault's father that he later tells about his own father in his Reflections on the Guillotine.

Another thing about them is that they are all novels of feelings written during the same period. Nabokov is explicit about the conditions in Germany. But the run-up to World War II and the world wide depression of that era are certainly implicit in the ideas of alienation, angst, and despair.
 

Patito de Hule

Ad Honorem
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
"Sartre is an existntialist, and the only book of ideas that I have publishe, The Myth of Sisyphus, was directed against the so-called extentialist philosophers."

Camus in an interview with Jeanine Delpech in Les Nouvelles Litteraires, 15 Nov. 1945.

Perhaps Sartre didn't understand Camus.
LOL. Having read a bit of Sartre I'd say his insight is penetrating. Camus, on the other hand... as an absurdist can he really say 100% he isn't an existentialist?
I ran into a passage by Ronald Aronson, an author who obviously understands both Sartre and Camus better than I. He takes a different tack, but seems to be saying what I was trying to arrive at here. Toward the end of a discussion of Camus's review of Sartre's novel Nausea and Sartre's review of Camus's The Stranger, Aronson has this to say:

Just as Sartre must have noticed that The Stranger came alive as fiction in ways that his own Nausea did not--as Camus had astutely pointed out four years earlier--so also he must have seen that for all its appeal as popular philosophizing, The Myth of Sisyphuswas the work of a dabbler in philosophy. Camus briefly dismissed existentialists such as Jaspers, Heidegger, and Kierkeggard en route to insisting that nothing could overcome life's absurdity.
This gives some additional context to the fact that Sartre considered Camus an existentialist; Camus denied being an existentialist; Sartre suggests that Camus does not understand Jaspers, Kierkegaard, et al. Aronson says Sartre must have noticed this. I said in my post that perhaps Sartre did not understand Camus. Aronson is surely right here and getting at the same idea I was groping for.

The quote comes from the following book, pp 14-15.
[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Camus-Sartre-Story-Friendship-Quarrel/dp/0226000249/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1300222472&sr=8-1"]Amazon.com: Camus and Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It (9780226000244): Ronald Aronson: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/419NXC8YM2L.@@AMEPARAM@@419NXC8YM2L[/ame]

Well, I said to someone just recently than in the pond of philosophy I am a filter feeder--sort of a sponge who absorbs the scum and is squeezed dry before I proceed to the next pond. Camus, it seems, was a dabbler.
 

Patito de Hule

Ad Honorem
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
Chatting with my daughter about the Stranger, she reminded me of a couple of other novels we read about the same time: Franz Kafka's The Trial, and Vladimir Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading. There are some eerie similarities and differences.

In The Stranger, the most realistic of the three, Meursault is tried, convicted, and executed for killing an Arab. It ends as he is about to be beheaded.

In The Trial, the whole trial (Process) is weirdly unreal. K's crime is never revealed to K or to the reader. He is found guilty and executed.

Invitation to a Beheading is the most transcendental of all. Cincinnatus is tried for gnostic turpitude, condemned to death, and at the end all of reality dissolves.

I have found my old copy of Nabokov's book, so I am rereading it now. I can't find a copy of The Trial. I did find Der Prozess, but I don't read German; it must have come from my dad.

The central theme of all three is the same alienation.
 
Jul 2011
4,668
Toronto, Canada
All Camus needed to do was call his so called Abusrdism moral nihilism and it wouldn't have been such an obscure concept...