Meursault, the anti-hero of Camus masterpiece L'etranger continually puts the reader on the back foot: as he appears as an intensely self-interested man, but also an innocent abroad, he can be an extremely sensual man, but also a callous individual, he seems to be both a rebel and a man desperately trying to conform, above all he is an absurd man and we witness his growing self-awareness of the world around him that he struggles to come to terms with. The novel takes the form of a bildungsroman, as we witness his growth through adversity following the choices he makes in a life, which he comes to believe is absurd.. I read this back in the 1970's and found I could identify with Meursault the sensual self-interested young man of part 1 of the novel, however I could not get to grips with his seeming acquiescence to his fate in part 2, putting it down to the establishments vindictiveness towards a young man, who appeared to rebel against society. Re-reading it again last week I discovered along with Meursault, that his fate is signposted from the start and it his own intellectual acknowledgement of his variance to all the people that he comes into contact with, that leads him to accept his destiny.. Camus takes us into the mind of Meursault relating his story in the first person, right from the arresting first couple of lines: "Mother died today, Or maybe , yesterday; I can't be sure", until the final paragraph of the novel where he says "No one, no one in the world had any right to weep for her" In between Meursault is launched on a bildungsroman that is so beautifully crafted in just over 100 pages that the reader can look back with ease to the relevant issues in an extraordinary life. Meursault is a man who does not understand how to fit into the society in which he lives. From the opening scene of his travel and attendance at his mother's funeral, his missteps are many and his embarrassment leads him to shut himself off from other people. He remains true to his feelings but his inability to adapt to the conventions of daily life forces him to lie to himself and to others. It is Camus skill which enables us to almost see the workings of a mind in turmoil and yet be sympathetic to his struggles. It is Meursalt's behaviour at his mother's funeral that will come to haunt him when he is on trial for murder. The singular event that leads to Meursault's epiphany is the killing of an Arab on the beach. This is the start of his awareness of who he is and Camus ends part one of the book with some marvellous prose: "And so with that crisp whip-crack sound, it all began. I shook off my sweat and the clinging veil of light. I knew I'd shattered the balance of the day, the spacious calm of the beach on which I had been happy. But I fired four shots more into the inert body, on which they left no visible trace. And each successive shot was another loud fateful rap on the door of my undoing.". Part 2 of the novel describes Meursault's imprisonment and trial for murder, where his past is examined to ascertain/prove that he is an outsider and as such a monster: a danger to the society in which he lives. Our sympathies are all with Meursault as he stumbles towards an understanding of his situation, that he can do so, is the triumph of this novel. His approaching death forces him to reflect on his life and he realises that he is living in an absurd world. His actions have been that of an absurd man and it is now when he can recognise this fact that he can be free. He says when under immense pressure from a priest to finally believe in God: "I'd been right, I was still right, I was always right. I'd passed my life in a certain way, and I might have passed it in a different way, if I'd have felt like it........... From the dark horizons of my future a sort of slow persistent breeze had been blowing towards me, all my life long from the years that were to come" Camus has taken the reader into the absurd world: A world where life has no meaning and we are all at the mercy of an irrational unfeeling universe. It is only when we can finally accept this and our imminent death that we can truly be free. Free that is to live to the utmost in the years up to our death, because our reason tells us there is nothing else. Meursault becomes an absurd hero, because he no longer fears death and can get on with the rest of his life, however long or short that might be. An understanding of Camus thoughts on an absurd sensitivity adds much to an understanding of L'etranger. Albert Camus has written a beautiful thought provoking book which has layers of meaning, but on whatever level you come to it I don't think you can fail to be moved by the fate of Meursault. I was when I first read it and again for different reason on my recent re-read. I say beautiful because of the powerful descriptive writing that makes us see the town in Algeria where this takes place. We feel the malevolent and benevolent power of the sun; another key theme in the novel as it seems to cajole and then goad Meursault into action and non action. The opening chapter describing his mother's funeral is a masterful piece of writing. At the end of the novel Meursault has come along way from the man who near the start of the novel confessed that he "didn't like Sundays" I read the penguin modern classics edition, which has a translation by Stuart Gilbert dating from 1961. I cannot recommend this as I feel that Gilbert takes too many liberties with the text, for example his translation of the title of the book is The Outsider rather than The Stranger. I read it alongside the original French text and thought that Camus's words speak for themselves and so a more modern translation like that of Mathew Ward may be better. A 20th century classic and a must read 5 stars.