Albert Camus - The Stranger

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Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby WW_III_ANGRY » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:52 pm

Finished this short book yesterday, a good quick read. It starts out slow but gains steam as you go.

Has anyone read it? If so thoughts?

The main character was disconnected of course, a stranger to life itself it seems. Wading in nihilism when he wasn't in the moment, appreciating the aesthetic of now. He found things interesting, was intelligent, but not intelligent enough to see a minute ahead of him. Not a way to live, yet he did have a point at the end, nonetheless, having a point and living that point isn't really "good" for the character, as he's caught reasoning out, attempting to reconcile his actions and justify them. Rationalizing away his myopia, because it was too late.
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Prismatic567 » Thu Jan 04, 2018 7:37 am

I have the book translated by Stuart Gilbert but I have not read it thoroughly, so cannot claim to be a very reliable reviewer.

Generally if one were to study Meursault within the main topic of Psychopathy aka sociopathy via psychiatry and psychology, one could have understood the fundamental theme of the book. [??]

Wiki wrote:Psychopathy, sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is traditionally defined as a personality disorder[1] characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, egotistical traits.


There are other themes, e.g. existentialism, morality, etc. but these seem to be secondary.
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby unknowing » Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:24 pm

Prismatic567 wrote:I have the book translated by Stuart Gilbert but I have not read it thoroughly, so cannot claim to be a very reliable reviewer.

Generally if one were to study Meursault within the main topic of Psychopathy aka sociopathy via psychiatry and psychology, one could have understood the fundamental theme of the book. [??]

Wiki wrote:Psychopathy, sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is traditionally defined as a personality disorder[1] characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, egotistical traits.


There are other themes, e.g. existentialism, morality, etc. but these seem to be secondary.


I read it, enjoyed it, right after I read Notes From the Underground, which promoted the idea that a man will do what goes against his best interest just prove he has freewill. I read this stuff when I was struggling with fate and free will and I made terrible decisions. That doesn't mean you will make bad decisions from reading it, too. But you might get sick, dry wretch, feel nausea while riding the existential roller coaster. Good times.
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Chakra Superstar » Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:37 pm

I read The Stranger decades ago so I might change my mind if I reread it today but this is what I got from it at that time.

I don’t see Meursault as a socio/psychopath. Sure, Meursault shares a lack of empathy and morals with sociopaths, but socio/psychopaths have particular nasty traits that steam from being narcissists. Meursault is not a narcissist.

Socio/psychopaths may not have empathy for others but they certainly have powerful emotions when it comes to themselves. One of their classic traits is how they exploit the emotions, beliefs, morals and trust of others -– even to the point of shedding fake tears. Meursault is not like that. He doesn’t show emotions for others nor for himself and he certainly doesn’t try to manipulate people – quite the contrary. If anyone is manipulated, it’s Meursault.

In essence, socio/psychopaths are immoral whereas Meursault is amoral.

Secondly, I don’t see the story as being about Meursault or psycho/sociopaths per se. For me, Meursault is just a caricature Camus uses to walk us through a meaningless world. Camus could have used an animal as the amoral protagonist - a cat that plays with a mouse until it is dead or rapes another cat, for instance wouldn't be judged as evil because the animal is intellectually incapable of evil. They’re simply biologically driven behaviours.

Meursault is more like an amoral animal than a narcissistic psychopath; he lives in the moment and flops from one situation to the next as his whims take him. There’s no plan, no deliberation as to what an action might 'mean' or lead to. Even when Meursault kills an Arab on the beach it’s not out of hatred, revenge or even sick pleasure. His friend was going to kill the guy but didn’t so Meursault did. His reason? “Why not?” Meursault is no more complex than that. Why not?

In a way, Camus takes us back to ground zero before we were programmed by society’s ethics, morals and laws. He offers us a fresh look at a world that comes to us empty and devoid of meaning.

Unlike most people, Meursault isn’t driven by fear. He is free. He has absolutely no need to make-believe there’s a purpose behind this absurdity called life. It is what it is and he floats through it acting as one would if he wasn’t handicapped by limiting beliefs or corrupted by narcissism.

At the end of the book Meursault’s facing the death penalty (for killing the Arab) and a priest is bludgeoning him into believing in a world of good and bad, heaven and hell, salvation and punishment. These verbal attacks force Meursault to articulate his nebulous nihilistic vision and, in doing so, it brings Meursault to a deeper acceptance of life. Meursault enters a state of peace and resignation about his life and impending death. He has no guilt, no shame, no fear, no regret and no standard he’s failed to live up to.

Unlike all those who tried to threaten and shame him into being something he wasn't, Meursault integrity stands - his beliefs and his lifestyle are in perfect sync and now, with a clearer understanding of himself, he has come into perfect alignment and peace. A peace that judgmental, fearful believers will never know.


EDIT: The Cure's Killing An Arab - introduced a lot of people to the book back in the 80's. Good stuff.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdbLqOXmJ04

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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Prismatic567 » Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:53 am

unknowing:
Did you detect any psychological elements like psychopathy other than 'existential'?


Chakra Superstar:
Chakra Superstar wrote:I read The Stranger decades ago so I’m not sure if I’d change my mind if I reread it today but this is what I got from it at that time.

I don’t see Meursault as a socio/psychopath. Sure, Meursault shares a lack of empathy and morals with sociopaths, but socio/psychopaths have particular nasty traits that steam from being narcissists. Meursault is not a narcissist.

Socio/psychopaths may not have empathy for others but they certainly have powerful emotions when it comes to themselves. One of their classic traits is how they exploit the emotions, beliefs, morals and trust of others -– even to the point of shedding fake tears. Meursault is not like that. He doesn’t show emotions for others nor for himself and he certainly doesn’t try to manipulate people – quite the contrary. If anyone is manipulated, it’s Meursault.

In essence, socio/psychopaths are immoral whereas Meursault is amoral.

Secondly, ....



Note there are degrees and a continuum re Psychopathy like from 'very good' to 'very evil';

When most of us hear the word “psychopath,” we imagine Hannibal Lecter.

Kevin Dutton would prefer that we think of brain surgeons, CEOs and Buddhist monks.

In his new book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, the Oxford research psychologist argues that psychopathic personality traits—charm, confidence, ruthlessness, coolness under pressure—can, in the right doses, be a good thing.

Not all psychopaths are violent, he says, and some of them are just the sort of people society can count on in a crisis.
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science- ... QiHLrAa.99
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby unknowing » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:28 am

Prismatic, I did not see it as psychological they way a detective would trying to ascribe motive to the beach murder. I saw it through the eyes of a character who witnessed his neighbor kicking the dog for no reason. "Because it was there." A chain of events that lacked purpose according to a preset belief system that prized no consistent beliefs.
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby WW_III_ANGRY » Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:48 pm

Chakra Superstar wrote:I read The Stranger decades ago so I might change my mind if I reread it today but this is what I got from it at that time.

I don’t see Meursault as a socio/psychopath. Sure, Meursault shares a lack of empathy and morals with sociopaths, but socio/psychopaths have particular nasty traits that steam from being narcissists. Meursault is not a narcissist.

Socio/psychopaths may not have empathy for others but they certainly have powerful emotions when it comes to themselves. One of their classic traits is how they exploit the emotions, beliefs, morals and trust of others -– even to the point of shedding fake tears. Meursault is not like that. He doesn’t show emotions for others nor for himself and he certainly doesn’t try to manipulate people – quite the contrary. If anyone is manipulated, it’s Meursault.

In essence, socio/psychopaths are immoral whereas Meursault is amoral.

Secondly, I don’t see the story as being about Meursault or psycho/sociopaths per se. For me, Meursault is just a caricature Camus uses to walk us through a meaningless world. Camus could have used an animal as the amoral protagonist - a cat that plays with a mouse until it is dead or rapes another cat, for instance wouldn't be judged as evil because the animal is intellectually incapable of evil. They’re simply biologically driven behaviours.

Meursault is more like an amoral animal than a narcissistic psychopath; he lives in the moment and flops from one situation to the next as his whims take him. There’s no plan, no deliberation as to what an action might 'mean' or lead to. Even when Meursault kills an Arab on the beach it’s not out of hatred, revenge or even sick pleasure. His friend was going to kill the guy but didn’t so Meursault did. His reason? “Why not?” Meursault is no more complex than that. Why not?

In a way, Camus takes us back to ground zero before we were programmed by society’s ethics, morals and laws. He offers us a fresh look at a world that comes to us empty and devoid of meaning.

Unlike most people, Meursault isn’t driven by fear. He is free. He has absolutely no need to make-believe there’s a purpose behind this absurdity called life. It is what it is and he floats through it acting as one would if he wasn’t handicapped by limiting beliefs or corrupted by narcissism.

At the end of the book Meursault’s facing the death penalty (for killing the Arab) and a priest is bludgeoning him into believing in a world of good and bad, heaven and hell, salvation and punishment. These verbal attacks force Meursault to articulate his nebulous nihilistic vision and, in doing so, it brings Meursault to a deeper acceptance of life. Meursault enters a state of peace and resignation about his life and impending death. He has no guilt, no shame, no fear, no regret and no standard he’s failed to live up to.

Unlike all those who tried to threaten and shame him into being something he wasn't, Meursault integrity stands - his beliefs and his lifestyle are in perfect sync and now, with a clearer understanding of himself, he has come into perfect alignment and peace. A peace that judgmental, fearful believers will never know.


EDIT: The Cure's Killing An Arab - introduced a lot of people to the book back in the 80's. Good stuff.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdbLqOXmJ04

.


Beautiful review- and I agree
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby WendyDarling » Fri Jan 05, 2018 5:15 pm

Thanks Chakra for making the book sound so interesting, I may have to read it now.
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby unknowing » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:56 pm

Wendy, Notes From the Underground is awesome, too.
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby WendyDarling » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:12 pm

Chakra, can there be one of your reviews for that one too? :wink:
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I live my philosophy, it's personal to me and people who engage where I live establish an unspoken dynamic, a relationship of sorts, with me and my philosophy.

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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Chakra Superstar » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:21 am

Thanks for your generous responses Angry and Wendy. :P

Prismatic.... how do I say this politely? Damn it, I can't. The Dutton book/excerpt you posted is the biggest load of garbage I’ve read in a long, long time and remember, I browse ILP quite regularly… :-" It’s pop psychology at its worse – e.g. Psychopaths are detached... Buddhist monks and surgeons are detached… therefore, Buddhist monks and surgeons are psychopathic. WTF?

Psychopathy is as a complex of symptoms. You can’t take one or two traits out of context then label people. Buddhists are known for their compassion. Surgeons detach themselves so they can save lives. Compassion and saving lives are not psychopathic traits. Dutton even made up his own questionnaire rather than follow the standard diagnostic procedures… smh. I could go on, but I wont.

If you want academic info on psychopathy then check out Lobaczewski and Hare – perhaps the two most famous researchers on psychopathy. Lobaczewski is considered as the father of ponerology (the study of evil – particularly in the political arena) while Hare is a psychologist who developed the clinical standard for evaluating psychopaths. According to Hare’s diagnostic methods a person must have multiple traits in large enough degrees to be considered clinically psychopathic. Narcissism and intent are key socio/psychopathic traits that Meursault doesn’t have. Interestingly, his neighbours (one wants to terrorize his g/f and the other who abuses his dog then cries for himself when it’s gone) show us real sociopaths traits in the 'normal' population.

If you want to believe Meursault was a psychopath then that’s your call. I disagree on the diagnostic level but more importantly, because by labeling Meursault as a psychopath you're missing the main thrust of the book. Meursault is not a good or bad person. He’s not right or wrong -- he’s a hollow man... an empty man, empty of ambition and direction and unimpeded by religion, ethics, morals, laws and codes of behaviour. It is through his vacant eyes that we come to see what we normally don’t allow ourselves to see - the abyss.

Now this is where I might be reading too much into the book...
For the nihilist, the abyss is the end of the road. For the metaphysical seeker, the abyss is the point of transition (this is the stuff they don't teach you in flower power guru school). Everyone who craves for real transformation will come face to face with the terror of the abyss and it is there that you’ll have to decide if you'll turn back or jump in.

(Spoiler alert) In the last paragraph of the book Meursault says:
“As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of execration.”

These are not the words of a psychopath. These are the words of a solitary man who has walked his own path and now, washed clean, awaits the crucifixion. Whether the lynch mob come to praise him or spit on him doesn’t matter to one who has reached this state of 'gentle indifference'. His only wish is that they come and close off a life hitherto spent alone.

(one) who falls into the abyss becomes an air-man—free and floating -- Lucebert

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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Chakra Superstar » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:17 am

WendyDarling wrote:Chakra, can there be one of your reviews for that one too? :wink:

Hehe. Maybe 'unknowing' could write a review?

I didn’t like the book so I’d be interested to hear what people liked about it. Maybe I missed something but for me it was hard going reading the ramblings of a whiny middle-aged curmudgeon who was far too neurotic and hyper self-conscious to take to. If he were a friend, I'd slap him across the face and tell him to grow a set of balls.

Much of the stuff he said was quite revolutionary 150 years ago but today after the rise and fall of the communist and fascist utopias and the invention of psychology, marketing and propaganda, there's wasn't anything there for me to grab on to.

In response to the new 'mathematically perfect' utopias being considered at that time, he argued against them saying people don't always choose what is rational and right for themselves. Sometimes they let their emotions choose for them even when they know it's not in their best interests. People want to have the freedom to choose EVEN if that choice is not in their best interest. That's cool. We have seen political and economic systems fail because of this but it's not ground breaking anymore.

He did say something I think it IS good to remember from time to time and that is: Stupid people often get into powerful positions BECAUSE they're stupid. Stupid people don't see complexities and contradictions intelligent people do. Everything is simplified to being black or white, good or bad which allows them to act with full concentrated effort. Intelligent people, on the other hand, know too much and have too many options and they tend to see potential errors and problems stupid people don't. This makes them seem indecisive, unclear and half-hearted when they do eventually act. Again, we see that daily particularly in the political sphere: we do things over and over again that create bigger problems down the track.

The last third of the book was the part I enjoyed most. Chronologically, these stories should have been placed at the start of the book because it was these experiences that drove the Underground Man, underground - into his basement. However this section consisted largely consisted of boring 19th century trivia and chatter and neurotic descriptions of the protagonist's hatred of everyone. There was no poetic phrasing or clever insights so I found it rather tiresome and self-indulgent.

I understand that this little book should be viewed in the context of the time it was written. I get that. The concept of an anti-hero and first-person narration were new... the ideas mentioned above were very insightful for the time... and Dostoyevsky influenced a generation of writers that came after him yada.. yada... yada... but that doesn't necessarily make the book clever, interesting, insightful or engaging, today.

Having said that, I'd be happy to hear form others that got more out of it than I did.

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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Prismatic567 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:08 am

Chakra Superstar wrote:Thanks for your generous responses Angry and Wendy. :P

Prismatic.... how do I say this politely? Damn it, I can't. The Dutton book/excerpt you posted is the biggest load of garbage I’ve read in a long, long time and remember, I browse ILP quite regularly… :-" It’s pop psychology at its worse – e.g. Psychopaths are detached... Buddhist monks and surgeons are detached… therefore, Buddhist monks and surgeons are psychopathic. WTF?

Psychopathy is as a complex of symptoms. You can’t take one or two traits out of context then label people. Buddhists are known for their compassion. Surgeons detach themselves so they can save lives. Compassion and saving lives are not psychopathic traits. Dutton even made up his own questionnaire rather than follow the standard diagnostic procedures… smh. I could go on, but I wont.
I believe there is a continuum with psychopathy.
I would not take Buddhists [I am very familiar with Buddhism] as psychopaths too seriously, and perhaps they are likely to fit in at the lowest end of psychopathy.

If you want academic info on psychopathy then check out Lobaczewski and Hare – perhaps the two most famous researchers on psychopathy. Lobaczewski is considered as the father of ponerology (the study of evil – particularly in the political arena) while Hare is a psychologist who developed the clinical standard for evaluating psychopaths. According to Hare’s diagnostic methods a person must have multiple traits in large enough degrees to be considered clinically psychopathic. Narcissism and intent are key socio/psychopathic traits that Meursault doesn’t have. Interestingly, his neighbours (one wants to terrorize his g/f and the other who abuses his dog then cries for himself when it’s gone) show us real sociopaths traits in the 'normal' population.
I believe it is the 'old school' view of psychopathy i.e. confined to the clinical definition of psychopathy.

I have recently read of the other side of the continuum of psychopathy and many articles on this topic have been raised. This is how I had related this aspect of psychopathy [good] to Meursault.
Note this is an objective view of psychopathy based on neural connectivity and activities.

Life as a Nonviolent Psychopath
Neuroscientist James Fallon discovered through his work that he has the brain of a psychopath, and subsequently learned a lot about the role of genes in personality and how his brain affects his life.

    In 2005, James Fallon's life started to resemble the plot of a well-honed joke or big-screen thriller: A neuroscientist is working in his laboratory one day when he thinks he has stumbled upon a big mistake. He is researching Alzheimer's and using his healthy family members' brain scans as a control, while simultaneously reviewing the fMRIs of murderous psychopaths for a side project. It appears, though, that one of the killers' scans has been shuffled into the wrong batch.

    The scans are anonymously labeled, so the researcher has a technician break the code to identify the individual in his family, and place his or her scan in its proper place. When he sees the results, however, Fallon immediately orders the technician to double check the code. But no mistake has been made: The brain scan that mirrors those of the psychopaths is his own.


If you want to believe Meursault was a psychopath then that’s your call. I disagree on the diagnostic level but more importantly, because by labeling Meursault as a psychopath you're missing the main thrust of the book. Meursault is not a good or bad person. He’s not right or wrong -- he’s a hollow man... an empty man, empty of ambition and direction and unimpeded by religion, ethics, morals, laws and codes of behaviour. It is through his vacant eyes that we come to see what we normally don’t allow ourselves to see - the abyss.
I understand Camus is into existential philosophy and I have taken note of that but I think philosophically we need to take into any other relevant information and thus widen our perspective to the issue.
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Fixed Cross » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:23 am

WW_III_ANGRY wrote:Finished this short book yesterday, a good quick read. It starts out slow but gains steam as you go.

Has anyone read it? If so thoughts?

The main character was disconnected of course, a stranger to life itself it seems. Wading in nihilism when he wasn't in the moment, appreciating the aesthetic of now. He found things interesting, was intelligent, but not intelligent enough to see a minute ahead of him. Not a way to live, yet he did have a point at the end, nonetheless, having a point and living that point isn't really "good" for the character, as he's caught reasoning out, attempting to reconcile his actions and justify them. Rationalizing away his myopia, because it was too late.

You're rationalizing it.
The strong do what they can, the weak accept what they must.
- Thucydides

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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Pandora » Mon Jan 15, 2018 5:19 am

The French news were talking about Louis Ferdinand Céline today, and it reminded me of this post. Have anyone read him? Apparently his journey to the End of the Night became a French classic that also became controversial due to its antisemitism. He is also being compared to Cioran, but with additional biting black humor. According to his bio, he lived through 2 world wars, and I wonder if the wars had a direct influence on development of literary existential pessimism of this type, especially on sensitive/artistic psychologies.
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Re: Albert Camus - The Stranger

Postby Chakra Superstar » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:00 am

Pandora wrote:The French news were talking about Louis Ferdinand Céline today, and it reminded me of this post. Have anyone read him?

Yeah, I read it and loved it... I'm not in the mood for writing much atm... I'm pretty tired; maybe later.

Pandora wrote:Apparently his journey to the End of the Night became a French classic that also became controversial due to its antisemitism.

There’s no anti-Semitism in this book. You can call it racist (he uses the terms 'nigger' and 'slaves') if you want to be offended but he’s simply showing the ugliness of the French occupation in Africa and the mindless acquiesce of blacks who seem far too eager to please their masters now that they have accepted the white mans view of the world. The charge of anti-Semitism stems from political pamphlets he wrote years later.

Pandora wrote:He is also being compared to Cioran, but with additional biting black humor. According to his bio, he lived through 2 world wars, and I wonder if the wars had a direct influence on development of literary existential pessimism of this type, especially on sensitive/artistic psychologies.

Since Celine published before Cioran, I think Cioran should be compared to Celine not v.v.

Celine had only been involved in one war (WW1) when he wrote Journey to the End of the Night but even before that war, Celine was a full-blown pessimist. The absurdity and insanity of the war just crystallized his belief that humans will gladly accept any meaning or purpose offered them rather than face a meaningless world as an outcast.

To philosophize is only another way of being afraid and leads hardly anywhere but to cowardly make-believe.” Celine





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