'My mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know.'
Sandra Smith's new translation, based on close listening to a recording of Camus
reading his work aloud on French radio in 1954, sensitively renders the subtleties and
dream-like atmosphere of L'Étranger.
In The Outsider (1942), his classic existentialist novel, Camus explores the
alienation of an individual who refuses to conform to social norms. Meursault, his anti-
hero, will not lie. When his mother dies, he refuses to show his emotions simply to
satisfy the expectations of others. And when he commits a random act of violence on a sun-
drenched beach near Algiers, his lack of remorse compounds his guilt in the eyes of
society and the law. Yet he is as much a victim as a criminal.
Albert Camus' portrayal of a man confronting the absurd, and revolting against the
injustice of society, depicts the paradox of man's joy in life when faced with the 'tender
indifference' of the world.
Albert Camus (1913-1960), French novelist, essayist and playwright, is one of
the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His most famous works include The
Myth of Sisyphus (1942), The Plague (1947), The Just (1949), The
Rebel (1951) and The Fall (1956). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature
in 1957, and his last novel, The First Man, unfinished at the time of his death, appeared
in print for the first time in 1994, and was published in English soon after by Hamish
Sandra Smith was born and raised in New York City and is a Fellow of Robinson
College, University of Cambridge, where she teaches French Literature and Language. She
has won the French American Foundation Florence Gould Foundation Translation Prize, as
well as the PEN Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize.