‘L’Étranger’, by Albert Camus, tells the deceptively simple tale of Meursault, a seemingly ordinary French man who one day irrationally murders an Arab, resulting in his execution by the authorities,although perhaps not ultimately for the crime of murder, but rather the refusal to conform to the conventions of society. Although it was not an immediate success upon its initial publication, thenovel has gone on to become one of the classic novels of the 20th century, helping it’s author win a Nobel Prize in 1957. To this day, it remains a bestseller throughout the world. Yet how has such anunusual work become one of the most read books in recent history?
Without doubt, one of the key factors behind the novel’s sustained popularity is its accessibility. The language used is notparticularly complex or challenging; meaning the novel can be studied at a relatively basic level. In addition, the novel’s length, or rather lack of it (just over 100 pages), undoubtedly contributes to itssuccess; particularly amongst young people. Furthermore, the plot, upon first inspection, is relatively simple and easy to keep track of. Told from Meursault’s almost childlike first personperspective, details are never convoluted. It uses perhaps the most familiar plot device of all; a murder. It features succinct chapters and is broken down into two distinctive parts, again ensuringreadability throughout. All of the aforementioned points make ‘L’Étranger’ an obvious choice for french students the world over; providing them not only with an interesting novel; but also an enjoyable andaccessible reading experience.
Yet ultimately, the novel’s simplicity is deceptive. Carl A Viggiani described it best when he stated ‘On the surface L’Étranger’ gives the appearance of being anextremely simple though carefully planned and written book. In reality, it is a dense and rich creation, full of undiscovered meanings and formal qualities.’ Indeed, there is far more to ‘L’Étranger’...
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