By Philip Thody (auth.)
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Additional info for Albert Camus
As Robert Champigny argues, it is an example of the application of Stoic, pagan wisdom. In an otherwise impossible situation, Meursault derives the maximum profit from his appeal, just as he profits from the sight of the clouds he can see through his cell window. But Meursault's wild leap of joy also echoes the remark in Le My the de Sisyphe that 'the only obstacle, the only deficiency to be made good, is constituted by premature death'. In a world from which other meanings have disappeared, the only possible aim can be to experience as many conscious physical sensations as you can.
Meursault was, after all, facing an Arab who was holding the very knife used only an hour or two earlier to wound Raymond. But the code in which Camus is intending this aspect of L 'Etranger to be read is that of the novel of social protest. He is concerned, as in so many of his other works, to attack the death penalty, and his criticism is aimed here at the way in which criminal courts reach their verdicts. Instead of concentrating on the facts of the case, they introduce the kind ofirrelevant and circumstantial evidence which justifies Camus's own description of L 'Etranger as the story of a man who is sentenced to death not for shooting another man but for not having wept at his mother's funeral.
Because I couldjust as easily have heard footsteps and my heart could have burst. For even though the faintest rustle would 36 Albert Camus send me flying to the door and even though, with my ear pressed to the wood, I'd wait there frantically until I could hear my own breathing and be terrified to find it so hoarse, like a dog's death-rattle, my heart wouldn't burst after all and I'd have gained another twenty-four hours. 5o Passages like this took on particular meaning in the late forties and early fifties, especially after Camus had become known, as a result of the publication of La Peste in 1947, as a determined opponent of capital punishment.