[Work: The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942]
Smiling While Despised:

The Ending of Albert Camus’ The Stranger and the Beginning of Authenticity

 

Albert Camus Sketch by M.R.P. - The Stranger ending - authenticity, existentialism

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

Introduction:

A month ago, your Tuesday Tome article consisted of a discussion of the topic of authenticity in the existential classic The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. This week, I would like to look at this same theme, authenticity, in the context of a work that is not merely labeled existential, but existentialist, appearing as it does among the canon of the French existentialists in the 20th century: The Stranger by Albert Camus.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of The Stranger, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already read the book.

Specifically, I would like to talk about the ending epiphany of protagonist Meursault, and what it is that allows Meursault to face his death happily at the end of The Stranger. My initial premise is that attainment of the aforementioned authenticity allows Meursault to do so, but this premise will be complicated by the novel’s very last line, for which I will offer three different but related readings.

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[Work: The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942]
Smiling While Despised:

The Ending of Albert Camus’ The Stranger and the Beginning of Authenticity

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain, 1894]
Nature, Nurture, Nightmare:

On Mark Twain’s Other Ironic Masterpiece, Pudd’nhead Wilson

 

Introduction:

Portrait of Mark Twain by James Carroll Beckwith - Pudd'nhead Wiilson - irony, satire

Portrait of Mark Twain by James Carroll Beckwith

Well, last week’s Tuesday Tome article set out to make a light recommendation of Breakfast on Pluto, then got side-tracked with a conversation about identity that led into a purely analytical Thursday Theater post on The Crying Game. I guess that when I found myself reading part of a dissertation on Irish art while writing the article, that should have been a good clue that the article was not going to end up light. With that failure to keep things light so fresh in my mind, I’m really (truly) going to make this one short, sweet, and enticing.

The book I want to convince you to read is a lesser-known work by an immensely famous author: Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain. This book has a little bit of everything, from ironic comedy to tragic twists to courtroom drama, and all of it is tied together by a core of biting satire as strong as Twain is known for. Not convinced? Let me tell you a bit more.

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[Work: Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain, 1894]
Nature, Nurture, Nightmare:

On Mark Twain’s Other Ironic Masterpiece, Pudd’nhead Wilson

was last modified: February 26th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Breakfast on Pluto, Patrick McCabe, 1998]
Tradition Troubled:

Boisterous Fun, Visceral Bloodshed, and ‘Irishness’ in Patrick McCabe’s Breakfast on Pluto

Introduction:

Patrick McCabe - Breakfast on Pluto - Irish, gender, violenceOne of the goals of this site is to make sure that the style of the articles in each series (with the possible exception of Your Friday Phil) encompasses a range containing everything from advice lists to simple reviews to deeper analyses. The Tuesday Tome series is one which has spent the past couple of weeks dealing in dense, analytical material, so it is due for a simple review. In fact, this week’s article will take the form of a straightforward recommendation. And the book which I would like to recommend is Breakfast on Pluto, a 1998 novel by Patrick McCabe, one of the two books for which McCabe has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

This is both the strangest and second-most recent book which I have covered in the series so far. Breakfast on Pluto‘s strangeness results from its recentness, as it presents a combination of a raw depiction of violence in Ireland during the Troubles with a wistful, campy narrative voice provided by transgender character Patrick “Pussy” Braden. If the concept of a male human being with typically feminine character traits and a typically feminine fashion sense is an affront to your taste, then this book is not for you. But if you are a reader who might be interested in a work that challenges genre (and gender) conventions in order to tell a violent and uniquely Irish history in a new way, then read on.

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[Work: Breakfast on Pluto, Patrick McCabe, 1998]
Tradition Troubled:

Boisterous Fun, Visceral Bloodshed, and ‘Irishness’ in Patrick McCabe’s Breakfast on Pluto

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Beowulf, (Author Unknown), c. 700-1000]
Ending Unending Feuds:

The Portent of Beowulf‘s Historicization of Violent Conflict

 

Introduction:

Beowulf first page - history, violence, feuds, cyclesIt has long been a clichéd truism that history is written by the victors; this assertion is often paired with the acknowledgment that a history written by those who lost major conflicts or were subjugated would be starkly different. The ubiquity of such sentiments clearly declares the paramount nature of considering perspective in approaching any historical account, whether that work is presented as non-fiction or fiction.

In the Old English verse work Beowulf, the question of perspective can be considered within the literary context of looking at speaker, syntax, and diction. One is meant, in light of the aforementioned modern sentiment, to look both at what that speaker aims to communicate about the events and individuals as well as at how and why the communication is thus structured.

That speaker, in historicizing the Geatish-Swedish Wars, actively obfuscates chronology, emphasizing the cyclical, muddy, and endless nature of feuding conflict so as to present the impotence of war, the tragedy of revenge, and the dependence of the two on a preoccupation with the past.

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[Work: Beowulf, (Author Unknown), c. 700-1000]
Ending Unending Feuds:

The Portent of Beowulf‘s Historicization of Violent Conflict

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961]
Rocks and Hard Places Galore:

The Bureaucratic Appropriation of War in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22

 

Introduction:

Joseph Heller Sketch by M.R.P. - Catch-22 - bureaucracy, absurdity, morality

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

What do you get when you mix the surreal, atmospheric absurdism of Kafka’s best known works with the darkly comedic anti-war satire of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five? I would say that you get something very close to a book published about 40 years after Kafka’s death, and about 10 years before the publication of Vonnegut’s novel: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

I would make it no secret that Catch-22 is one of my personal favorite novels. It is a novel that represents a masterclass in the modernist and postmodernist technique of melding high culture and low culture, as well as tragedy and comedy. This article explores the dominant philosophy and masterful presentation of Heller’s most successful novel.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Catch-22, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already read the book.

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[Work: Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961]
Rocks and Hard Places Galore:

The Bureaucratic Appropriation of War in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski