I’ve just finished reading L’Étranger (The Stranger) by Camus. It had been on my to-read list for a long time because it’s a “classic” and I (stupidly) challenged myself to read more classics this year. (I say “stupidly” because it seemed that as soon as I set myself the challenge, I became uninterested).
Well, how depressing.
It’s about a guy who kills a man by accident and gets death penalty. Sure, it’s well written and all. As the reader you get into his head, get as bored as he is about the events that unfold. But really, what was the point of reading such a depressing story ?! Ah, but maybe this novel is about more than just another depressing story, and I simply don’t get the philosophy of the absurd. Whatever.
I’m getting frustrated with the French literature: Madame Bovary is a bored adulterous woman who lets herself die of unhappiness (leaving a heartbroken husband and a motherless child), the Stranger is again bored and, though he seems to think he is happy, ends up… headless. I’m having a hard time reading Le Rouge et le Noir (the Black and the Red) by Stendhal, because it’s yet again another story of a coldhearted young man who starts an affair with a married woman…
The only pleasant surprise so far (in the world of French literature) (that I’ve read recently) (that I can think of) was Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Paradise) by Zola. As a teenager, a friend had loved it and lend it to me… but the descriptions were too long for my taste then. This time around I found myself delighting in such wealth of details in mid-nineteenth century fashion and innovations in the department store. The main character, Denise, is actually virtuously strong and refuses the advances of her rich boss, who is reputed to be a ladies’ man. I know, shocking in a French novel… Maybe I will enjoy reading more of Emile Zola.