Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lying is not only saying what isn't true

Albert Camus' The Stranger (or, as it is sometimes translated, The Outsider) is one of our favorite works on the absurd.

In his own afterword to a 1955 edition of the book, Camus wrote:

"A long time ago, I summed up The Outsider in a sentence which I realise is extremely paradoxical. 'In our society, any man who doesn't cry at his mother's funeral is liable to be condemned to death.' I simply meant that the hero of the book is condemned because he doesn't play the game ... He refuses to lie. Lying is not only saying what isn't true. It is also, in fact especially, saying more than is true and, in the case of the human heart, saying more than one feels. We all do it, every day, to make life simpler. But Meursault, contrary to appearances, doesn't want to make life simpler. He says what he is, he refuses to hide his feelings and society immediately feels threatened. For example, he is asked to say that he regrets his crime, in time-honoured fashion. He replies that he feels more annoyance about it than true regret. And it is this nuance that condemns him."

As we say, it is one of our favorite novels.

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