Albert Camus's novel The Stranger was first published in France in 1942 under its original French title, L'Étranger. It was later translated into English and published as The Stranger in the United States and The Outsider in England. Camus followed up this novel with The Plague in 1947 and The Fall in 1956. In 1957, he was given the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Stranger is an absurdist novel that follows a protagonist named Meursault. The novel is told from the first-person narrative perspective, which allows readers to gain direct insight into Meursault's thoughts. As the novel unfolds, it becomes clear that Meursault is a complex character. One trait of his, however, seems to overpower all others—that of detachment.
Through Meursault and his refusal to ascribe meaning, reason, or emotion to events, The Stranger gives readers an introduction to the philosophy of absurdism. This philosophy is related to existentialism, but Camus was strongly opposed to being categorized as an existentialist. Absurdism adheres to the idea that the world is meaningless and indifferent to human life. People should not expect to find real meaning in it anywhere and should acknowledge that any meaning they themselves create is transient at best. This is an important distinction, because in this framework, the entire question of the meaning of life is instantly rendered pointless. Instead of searching for meaning or attempting to cling to the meaning we strive to create, Camus believed, we should accept that we dwell in an inherently meaningless universe.
This philosophical viewpoint goes some way toward explaining why Meursault is so detached and uninterested in explaining his actions: everything that happens to him and around him is without meaning.