The Stranger by French author and philosopher Albert Camus, published in 1942 as L'Étranger, is a seminal work that delves into the philosophy of existentialism and the absurdity of human existence. The novel follows Meursault, a detached and apathetic Algerian, as he navigates life with a sense of indifference to moral codes. The physical setting of colonial Algiers is not merely a backdrop but an integral part of the narrative, reflecting the oppressive atmosphere that mirrors Meursault's emotional detachment. Camus’s writing style, characterized by its sparse and detached nature, serves to emphasize the existential outlook on life that permeates the novel.

Historically, The Stranger is situated in the mid-20th century, responding to the philosophical and intellectual movement of existentialism that gained prominence in the aftermath of World War II. The novel is a reflection on the nihilism and disillusionment of the time, as Meursault’s rebellion against traditional values and moral codes symbolizes the broader questioning of meaning in a seemingly indifferent universe. Although written during the height of the conflict, Camus’s work represents the spirit of a post-war Europe grappling with the consequences of conflict and the existential angst that followed.

Today, The Stranger continues to be a thought-provoking exploration of existential themes, prompting discussions about the nature of morality, the search for meaning, and the consequences of individual choices. The novel’s impact extends beyond literature, influencing philosophical discourse, psychology, and the broader understanding of the human experience.

Read an in-depth character analysis of Meursault, the plot summary, and explanations of important quotes from The Stranger. Or, learn more by studying SparkNotes guides to other works by Albert Camus.

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