THE OUTSIDER TENDS to express himself in Existentialist terms...

THE OUTSIDER TENDS to express himself in Existentialist terms. He is not very concerned with the distinction between body and spirit, or man and nature; these ideas produce theological thinking and philosophy; he rejects both. For him, the only important distinction is between being and nothingness. Barbusse’s hero: “Death, that is the most important of all ideas”.

Barbusse and Wells represent two different approaches to the problem. Barbusse’s approach can be called the “empirical”. His hero is not a thinker; he accepts living; it is its values he cannot accept. Wells goes much further in rejection; his conclusions have been pushed to nihilism; his approach is, like Hume’s, rationalist.

In Roquentin’s case, the conclusions are reached through an interaction of reason and experience. Again, it is the rational element that pushes him into nihilism; his only “glimmer of salvation” comes from a level of experience untouched by discursive thought, from a Negro woman singing “Some of These Days”. Reason leads into an impasse. If a solution exists, it must be sought, not in reasoning, but in examination of experience. We must keep in mind the logical possibility that a solution may not exist. In any case, it is the empirical approach that must be examined now.

Albert Camus’s Outsider is even more of an empiricist than Barbusse’s. He thinks even less; he has “no genius, no unusual feelings to bestow”; in fact, he has hardly any feelings at all.

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday. I can’t be sure.” This tone of indifference persists throughout the novel L’Etranger. Like L’Enfer and La Nausée, it observes the convention that the hero is keeping a diary. Meursault is an Algerian. The first page establishes his character. When he asks his employer for time off to attend his mother’s funeral, he says:

“Sorry, sir, but it isn’t my fault, you know.” 
Afterwards it struck me that I needn’t have said that… it was up to him to express his sympathy and so forth.


Fuente: The Outsider. Colin Wilson. Orion Books. London.2001.


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