Short summary - The Stranger - Albert Camus

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Stranger
Albert Camus

Meursault, a minor French official, resident of the Algerian suburb, receives news of the death of his mother. Three years ago, unable to support her on his modest salary, he placed her in an almshouse. After receiving a two-week leave, Meursault leaves for the funeral on the same day.

After a brief conversation with the director of the almshouse, Meursault is going to spend the night at his mother's coffin. However, he refuses to look at the deceased for the last time, talks to the watchman for a long time, calmly drinks coffee with milk and smokes, and then falls asleep. When he wakes up, he sees next to his mother's friends from the poorhouse, and it seems to him that they have come to judge him. The next morning, under the scorching sun, Meursault indifferently buries his mother and returns to Algeria.

After sleeping for at least twelve hours, Meursault decides to go to the sea for a swim and accidentally meets a former typist from his office, Marie Cardona. On the same evening, she becomes his mistress. Having passed the whole next day at the window of his room, overlooking the main street of the suburb, Meursault thinks that in his life, in essence, nothing has changed.

The next day, returning home from work, Meursault meets neighbors: old Salamano, as always, with his dog, and Raymond Sintes, a storekeeper, reputed to be a pimp. Sintes wants to teach his mistress, an Arab woman who cheated on him, and asks Meursault to compose a letter for her in order to lure her out on a date and then beat her up. Soon, Meursault witnesses Raymond's violent quarrel with his mistress, in which the police intervene, and agrees to testify in his favor.

The patron offers Meursault a new appointment in Paris, but he refuses: you still can't change your life. That same evening, Marie asks Meursault if he is going to marry her. Like promotion, Meursault is not interested.

Meursault is going to spend Sunday on the seashore with Marie and Raymond at his friend Masson's. Approaching the bus stop, Raymond and Meursault spot two Arabs, one of whom is the brother of Raymond's mistress. This meeting worries them.

After swimming and a hearty breakfast, Masson invites his friends to take a walk along the seashore. At the end of the beach, they spot two Arabs in blue overalls. It seems to them that the Arabs have tracked them down. A fight breaks out, one of the Arabs stabs Raymond with a knife. Soon they retreat and flee.

After a while, Meursault and his friends come to the beach again and see the same Arabs behind a high rock. Raymond gives Meursault the revolver, but there is no apparent reason for a quarrel. The world seemed to have closed and bound them. Friends leave Meursault alone. Scorching heat presses on him, a drunken stupor seizes him. At the creek behind the rock, he again notices an Arab who has wounded Raymond. Unable to endure the unbearable heat, Meursault steps forward, pulls out his revolver and shoots the Arab, "as if knocking on the door of misfortune with four short blows."

Meursault is arrested and summoned for interrogation several times. He considers his case to be very simple, but the investigator and the lawyer have a different opinion. The investigator, who seemed to Meursault not stupid and likeable person, cannot understand the motives of his crime. He starts a conversation with him about God, but Meursault confesses his disbelief. His own crime only annoys him.

The investigation continues for eleven months. Meursault realizes that the prison cell has become his home and his life has stopped. At first, he is mentally still at liberty, but after meeting Mari, a change occurs in his soul. Tired of boredom, he remembers the past and realizes that a person who has lived at least one day can spend at least a hundred years in prison - he has enough memories. Gradually Meursault loses the concept of time.

The Meursault case is scheduled to be heard at the last jury trial. The stuffy room is crowded with people, but Meursault is unable to distinguish a single face. He has a strange impression that he is superfluous, like an uninvited guest. After a long interrogation of witnesses: the director and caretaker of the almshouse, Raymond, Masson, Salamano and Marie, the prosecutor pronounces an angry conclusion: Meursault, having never once cried at his mother's funeral, not wanting to look at the deceased, the next day enters into a relationship with a woman and, being a friend of a professional pimp, he commits murder for a trivial reason, settling scores with his victim. According to the prosecutor, Meursault has no soul, human feelings are inaccessible to him, no moral principles are known to him. Horrified by the insensibility of the criminal, the prosecutor demands the death penalty for him.

In his defense speech, the lawyer Meursault, on the contrary, calls him an honest worker and an exemplary son, who supported his mother as long as possible, and ruined himself in a moment's blindness. Meursault awaits the gravest punishment - inescapable repentance and reproaches of conscience.

After the break, the president of the court announces the verdict: "on behalf of the French people" Meursault will be beheaded publicly in the square. Meursault begins to wonder if he will be able to avoid the mechanical course of events. He cannot agree with the inevitability of what is happening. Soon, however, he resigns himself to the thought of death, since life is not worth clinging to, and since you have to die, it does not matter when and how it happens.

Before the execution, a priest comes to Meursault's cell. But in vain is he trying to convert him to God. For Meursault, eternal life has no meaning, he does not want to waste the time remaining for him on God, so he pours out all the accumulated indignation on the priest.

On the verge of death, Meursault feels the breath of darkness rise to him from the abyss of the future, that he has been chosen by one and only fate. He is ready to relive everything and opens his soul to the gentle indifference of the world.