By Philip Thody (auth.)
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Extra resources for Albert Camus
The way that Meursault drifts amiably through life is at the furthest possible extreme from the 'passion to exhaust everything which is given' which Camus regards as characterising the ideal heroes of the absurd. When Meursault has a free day, he spends it aimlessly pottering about his apartment. He eats his fried eggs without bread because he cannot be bothered to go out and buy any. His one intellectual action is to cut out an advertisement for Kruschen salts and stick it in an exercise book where he puts things that amuse him.
It is the first French novel to be written without using the normal narrative tense, the passe simple. The predominant tense in LJEtranger is the passe compose ('j'ai vu', 'je me suis promene', 'il a ajoute), and the traditional Technique, Codes and Ambiguity 33 distinction in French used to be that one used the passe simple ('je vis', 'je me promenai', 'il ajouta') in any formal narrative, while keeping the passe compose either for speaking or for recording verbatim what somebody said. For a variety of reasons, this distinction is beinning to break down in contemporary French, but in 1942, when L 'Etranger was published, it was strong enough for the impact of this particular aspect of the novel to be very considerable.
However one-sided it is, this particular approach to L'Etranger is different from the other ways oflooking at it only in degree. It is not different in kind, for all the different interpretations suggested in this chapter suffer from the same drawback. 57 For it is not enough to see L'Etranger only in the terms of the dualistic sensibility suggested by the image of the two sides of the cloth in the title of L 'Envers et l'endroit. It is much more like a piece of shot silk, which shows a different colour each time you hold it up to the light, and a different one again every time you move it.
Albert Camus by Philip Thody (auth.)