Brief Biography of Albert Camus
Born in French Algeria in 1913 to a poor family, Camus’ father died in World War 1 the next year. Camus grew up in a two-bedroom apartment shared among five family members. He worked to support his education at University of Algiers but tuberculosis forced him to drop out. Afterwards, Camus became a journalist for a newspaper opposed to the French colonial government in Algiers and then for the Resistance in Paris during World War II. Camus developed his philosophy of the absurd while living in Paris. Though Absurdism asserts the meaningless of life in an indifferent universe, Camus maintained faith in human dignity and ability to escape despair. In addition to his first novel, The Stranger
, Camus published The Plague
, The Fall
, and philosophical essays including The Myth of Sisyphus
and The Rebel
. His work’s rich influence on intellectual and artistic culture earned him a Nobel Prize in 1957. Camus died in a car accident in 1961.
Historical Context of The Stranger
Fought between 1914 and 1918, World War I introduced the world to unprecedented violence and gave rise to a new sense of disaffection and doubt, producing art very different than the art of the past. In the wake of the war rose the Lost Generation, a group of artists who addressed the collapse of traditional structures of meaning—both secular and religious—and conveyed their sense of life’s meaninglessness. Born during World War I, Camus lost his father to the fighting and grew up to be an integral member of the Lost Generation. By the time he wrote The Stranger in the early 1940s, World War II had begun and the Nazi regime occupied France, where Camus had recently moved from Algeria. Though he fought passionately for the French Resistance against the Germans, Camus lived amidst widespread fear that the senseless horrors of World War I would be repeated. The inadequacy of religion or logic to account for such horrors helped inspire his own philosophy of Absurdism, whose ideas are reflected throughout The Stranger.
Other Books Related to The Stranger
Though technically a philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus is integral to a deeper understanding of The Stranger. It was published the same year as The Stranger and, along with the novel, cemented Camus’ reputation as a prominent thinker. In it, Camus explicates the tenets of his philosophy, Absurdism, the ideas of which underpin much of the action of The Stranger. The Myth of Sisyphus pinpoints the absurd precisely: neither the world nor human thinking in and of itself is absurd. Rather, the absurd arises when human thinking attempts to impose its order, reason, and logic on the meaningless world, a perennially futile goal. In The Stranger, the absurd is demonstrated by the trial, the lawyers, and the numerous priests and Christians who attempt to convert Meursault to religion.
Key Facts about The Stranger
Full Title: The Stranger
When Written: 1941?-1942
Where Written: France
When Published: 1942
Literary Period: Modernist
Genre: Philosophical novel
Setting: Algiers, Algeria
Climax: Meursault shoots the Arab.
Point of View: First person (Meursault is the narrator.)
Extra Credit for The Stranger