Tonawanda News


October 1, 2011

BOOK NOOK CLASSICS: ‘The Stranger’ still relevant after all these years

Having an existential crisis? You’re not alone. Try being Meursault, who in Albert Camus’ “The Stranger,” manages to find himself on death row faster than he understands what is going on around him.

The Stranger was originally published in French in 1942, and translated into English in 1946. It is featured in Le Monde’s 100 Books of the Century, a widely acclaimed list of the best French literature of the 1900s, and has been taught in a large number of high school and college classes since its release.

Following the first-person narrative of Meursault, the book is divided into two sections: The first chronicling the events prior to the murder Meursault “accidentally” commits, and the second detailing everything after.

Often deemed an existentialist novel, “The Stranger” looks deeply into the meaning and possibility of free will and it’s infinite consequences. It is often debated whether the book’s main character leans toward believing in free will more so than the average man — and this being the cause for his “odd” nature — or whether his behavior is a link to his lack of faith that anything he does has any meaning.

Either way, without really thinking about his actions — or maybe just uninterested in them — Meursault pulls the trigger of a gun he had only just received, killing a man who may or may not have been trying to murder him.

As the book unfolds, many interpret Meursault’s actions as those of a psychopath. Titled “The Stranger” due to the way Meursault feels about himself when thinking about society, links can be found between the way Meursault acts in certain situations and the way it has been documented that psychopaths would react under the same circumstances.

If this diagnosis is true, Camus here describes the every day life of such an individual in a way that we as readers can easily connect with. Never before this novel has such an accomplishment been pulled off; if in fact Meursault is a psychopath, he is one in which we can feel emotionally bonded with.

When Meursault doesn’t find a particular situation all too worthy of much emotion, we don’t find it deserves much either. This is, in fact, until the judge and jury determines such reactions do not coincide with those of a well-balanced, mentally healthy individual. At that time, we realize that we have been sympathizing, all along, with a man who under most other circumstances we would easily label a monster.

In the wake of the execution of Troy Davis and all the question marks that has surrounded it, it seems as though now is as good of a time as ever to read “The Stranger.” Camus is able to get into the mind, heart and soul of a solitary confinement inmate as he approaches his scheduled execution date like no other author has.

If you’re one to question the meaning of life from time to time, or one who enjoys contemplating the thoughts of time, the universe, and other “heavy” topics, “The Stranger” couldn’t be better fodder for your hungry mind.

 Written by a man who was only 29 at the time, “The Stranger” tackles topics that men much older have trouble dealing with. Very wise for his age and heavily influenced by favorite American authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus delivers a book every man and woman with even the slightest inkling for a better knowledge of the human condition should read. This one comes marked as highly recommended. Sixty years later it’s as pertinent as ever and will stick with you for months, if not years after reading.

Dean Goranites publishes weekly video book reviews at, and can be reached through twitter @unleashingwords.

Text Only
  • SUN LIFE Open gardens 1 072014.jpg Stop and smell the flowers

    More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE terrariums 1 072014.jpg For the love of nature

    Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.

    "I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.

    Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE fresh air 1 072014.JPG Getting some fresh air

    As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.

    “They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - SUN LIFE double trouble 2014.jpg Still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts

    I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB Calling all the basic locavores!

    Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE NT tours 071314.jpg A closer look at NT

    When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.

    Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFEe exercise 2 071314.jpg Fitness in the sun

     Following a trend of public, outdoor exercise programs, a number of local venues are offering their own free events aiming to get residents outside and active during the summer.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE muscoreils 1 071314.jpg Beyond the bakery

    For years, Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts & Gourmet Cakes has been a go-to location for desserts and wedding and occasion cakes in Western New York.

    This summer, even as the bakery deals with the rush of wedding season, changes at its associated bistro aim to create a revitalized focus on that side of the business, as well.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - Crib Notes 2014 RGB.jpg Figuring out the birthday-party rules

    The options when you escort your child to a birthday party are endless, really. Everywhere you turn, there’s another thrill to uncover.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB The tail of two books

    As promised, here are some more new summer reads that are all about our critter companions. Both books were released mid-June, and although they are quite different from one another, both would be valuable assets for your in-house library.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo