Monday, 10 March 2014

Killing an Arab

I'm embarrassed to say that it took me until my 38th year on this planet to 'get' the lyrics to a much loved Cure song.

I vaguely thought it was political.

I'm an idiot.

I read L'etranger at the weekend. And as it unfurled in its sparse, clipped glory The Cure came into my head. Ohhhhhhhh. I thought. Ohhhhhh I seeeee. And enjoyed a moment of understanding with Bob that surely brings us closer than ever.

Lots of music has pushed me to read things I would never have read at the time. My obsession with Jim Morrison took me to Huxley and eventually Blake, for example. How did The Cure not lead me to Camus?

The Outsider or The Stranger, depending on the translation you get. I have been meaning to read it for years.

It's the story of a man who feels nothing very deeply either way. He recognises that, really, nothing matters. His mama dies and goes in the ground and the world carries on turning.

He kills a man on a beach. He has a choice but he kills him. The outcome, in the end, is the same. Whether he dies by the guillotine or dies naturally, in the end its the same. It's a book about the  absurdist nature of humanity and in his final rant to the priest he accepts the  meaningless and finds peace. Shortly before he gets his head lopped off.

Very French that.

It's a beautifully written book. I'm far more about the words being few but resonating deeply. There is, no doubt, a place for rambling explanations and hugely detailed description. Especially in the fantasy genre. And I can appreciate them. I can like them. Sometimes I can enjoy them.

But I don't remember them and I don't have the urge to read them over again immediately because I know I have only touched the surface.

I'm glad I waited till now to read Camus. I would have had a very different interpretation as a teenager. And would, no doubt, have missed so much.

Because of when he was writing and the events that overtook him (TB and WW2) it must be tempting to only frame his work within those contexts.

Straight after The Outsider I read The Plague. Less immediately profound and more disturbing in lots of ways, it's a brilliant allegory of occupied France. But it's a lot more than that too.

I do love it when a writer blows my tiny mind.


  1. I couldn't agree more with your desire for "words being few but resonating deeply". It's why, generally, I favour poetry over novels. I've never read Camus, so thanks for the recommendation - maybe he'll blow my tiny mind, too. And to, hopefully, reciprocate, it's currently being blown by Esther Morgan - a poet of astonishing depth.

  2. Further to the above: I've been looking on Amazon, and there's a book called "The Boxer And The Goalkeeper: Sartre Vs Camus". Assuming your familiarity with Sartre (from the title of this blog), it sounds right up your boulevard!