Albert Camus's The Stranger

Meursault, an alien not of France or Algeria but of the world, shot the Arab and after the man had fallen, pumped four more bullets into the body. The sun made him do it just as if El Nino toppled the financial markets and urge disgruntle employees to shoot their colleagues and managers. He showed the same nonchalance toward a possible promotion, his mother’s death, his making love with Marie the first time, his neighbor Salamano’s beating the dog, and his friend Raymond’s beating his wife as toward killing the Arab. During the trial, contrary the social convention he offered no convincing motive and refused to defend himself against he crime.

To prevent him from contaminating society, from spreading meaninglessness and detachment to others, the jury found him guilty of callousness and condemned him to death for being a stranger to his mother, his lover, his friends, moral codes, social norms, and cultural conventions.
Arzew, Algeria

For the generation after WWII, for the survivors after the stench of Hitler and Stalin and the taste of Aushwitz, Nanjing and Hiroshima, what could be more seductive than embracing absurdity and thrashing humanity?

Nineteenth century optimism had crashed into a stonewall; utopia had metamorphosed into the Holocaust; the unlimited possibilities of reason, science and humanity had created the machine guns, the gas chambers, and the atomic bombs. Stranger, welcome to the brave new world!

The Guillotine

Just as a starving child would ignore Zeno’s problem or Fermat’s Last Theorem, so a stranger would neglect the alien faces and tunes, desiring to smell his home soil, to shake his kinsmen’s hands and to hug his "ground of being." In an absurd world, moral, social and cultural contracts would appear frivolous and irrelevant, and those who had feasted upon absurdity may view the world with a different pair of colored glasses and appreciate the Meursault’s methodic actions and orderly world.

When you are among lunatics accusing you of being insane, can you maintain your sanity? What is absurdity but a relative evaluation based on preconceived and accepted norms. Who really is the stranger in the world, Meursault or Marie or the prosecutor or the magistrate or the chaplain?
In The Stranger, a must-read to understand one view of the human predicament, Camus depicted the post-modern mileau where the Holocaust had dethroned and demythologized reason and science and the mutual critique among various claims to truth and meaning¾religion, politics, science, etc¾would result in a pluralism of absurdities that would provide new insights to humanity.

Miyuki Miyabe’s All She’s Worth

While Police Detective Shunsuke Honma is on leave after he injured his leg, a distant relative of his late wife appears and asks for help. His fiancée Shoko Sekine has disappeared after a bank rejected her application for a credit card, revealing her past bankruptcy.


Honma’s investigation reveals the woman’s descent into debt, a common problem in Japan’s consumer driven economy. But soon he finds out the fiancée might have murdered the real Shoko Sekine and taken over the woman’s identity. When he digs out the imposter’s background, he realizes that her family’s financial problems had driven her to assume the new identity.

Though the pace is slow and parts of the novel can be taken out without much loss, the search for the identities and backgrounds of the two women is interesting. But what really holds the story together is the problem associated with debt-driven consumer-oriented economy, the common link between the two women, the real and the fake Shoko Sekine. The desire to escape from debt, driving their lives to the sad ending. The issue is as relevant today as it was in the 1990’s.