->''"Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know."''

The first novel of Creator/AlbertCamus, published in 1942—which subsequently launched his writing career.

The narrator is an emotionally detached young man, one M. Meursault ([[LastNameBasis we never get his first name]]), a man who lives in French-colonized Algeria sometime between the two World Wars. The book opens with the news of his mother's death. He visits her nursing home, muses on the life she led there, then attends her funeral, most of which he finds quite boring. While he's reprimanded for not showing any grief, he doesn't really see the problem and soon asks out a nice girl at work. She becomes his girlfriend and the two happily spend time together as Meursault goes about his daily life working in a nondescript office.

As the days go by, Meursault begins observing his neighbors. One of those neighbors, Raymond, enlists Meursault's help in getting revenge on his girlfriend, an Arab woman, who he thinks was cheating on him. As Meursault's friendship with Raymond progresses, the reader slowly comes to realize that Meursault's lack of grief at his mother's death wasn't an isolated incident. And some time later, when the brother of Raymond's girlfriend offends Meursault by [[RuleOfSymbolism getting the sun in his eye,]] things go off the deep end.

Throughout the novel, Meursault struggles to understand what everyone around him keeps being so upset about. Rather hilariously, it's not always Meursault's more reprehensible characteristics that people take offense at-his atheism, for example, is noted by the people around him as more offensive than his actions against an Arab. As Meursault ponders the meaninglessness of life, he's genuinely baffled when he begins to understand social concepts like grief, crime and punishment.

One of the defining works of {{Existentialism}}, and deeply satirical.

!! Provides examples of:

* {{Absurdism}}: An early specimen and one of the best known non-theatre examples.
* TheAntiNihilist: Meursault comes off as this. To him, life is meaningless since death is inevitable, but he does not mind meaninglessness, and he takes joy in the moment. This also means that to him every life is equally valuable, even a dog's life. May be horrifying, depending on whether or not you follow Camus' philosophy.
* ArcWords: "But I got used to it."
* ArtisticLicenseHistory: As more than one critic has noted, this book takes place in French-colonial Algeria before independence, and the main character, an ethnically French colonist (in the phraseology of the period, a ''piednoir'') murders an Arab man that he doesn't know and has no reason to kill -- and yet he is arrested and tried for murder [[spoiler: and found guilty, and sentenced to death.]] In real-life colonial Algeria, he probably wouldn't have been arrested, and even if he had been, he almost certainly wouldn't have been found guilty. Of course, in the story it's clear he would probably have been let off if he hadn't admitted being an atheist. That convinces the authorities he's a monster, and it's this he ''really'' gets condemned for.
* BeigeProse: The narrator's tendency to give equal weight to everything - from his mother's death to how he feels about someone at any point in time - leads to this. This was intentional; Camus was intentionally imitating the "manly" American writers who wrote like this, particularly Creator/ErnestHemingway.
* BewareTheHonestOnes
* CannotTellALie: Interestingly averted. WordOfGod claimed that it never occurs to Meursault to say anything but the truth, but in fact Meursault lies at least twice, each time with unpleasant consequences. He writes the letter for Raymond that will persuade Raymond's girlfriend to return, knowing that Raymond only wants her back so he can beat her up; later he lies to the police, backing up Raymond's claim that he didn't hit the girl.
* CharacterWitness: Meursault and Raymond for each other.
* ChekhovsGun: Literal, with a side of irony. Meursault takes Raymond's pistol away from him so that Raymond won't shoot the Arab.
* ChewbaccaDefense: Mersault is convicted not so much for shooting an Arab as for not loving his mother enough and being an atheist.
* CutAndPasteTranslation: Matthew Ward's English translation (currently the most popular one in America) spends a good deal of its introduction bashing Stuart Gilbert's (which before his was the ''only'' one available in America.) In the original French, and in Ward's version, the narrator begins as a TerseTalker in the vein of an Creator/ErnestHemingway protagonist, then becomes oddly lyrical after going to jail. Gilbert essentially turns him British, and incidentally rewrites some of his [[CloudCuckooLander odder]] comments to sound more conventional.
* EmptyShell: Averted. Meursault may appear to be this, simply because of the BeigeProse (see above), but a closer reading reveals that he does have emotions.
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: The first two sentences of the book, quoted at the top of the page.
* ExtremeDoormat: Meursault initially seems to be an EmptyShell, but given his violent outburst at the priest in the end, it's more likely that he's one of these with a small remaining core of selfhood. He apparently used to have ambitions and dreams, but he abandoned them all as meaningless. Since he thinks nothing really matters, he does pretty much anything people ask him to.
* FaceDeathWithDignity: [[spoiler:Eventually, Meursault comes to terms with his execution]]:
--> ''It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I'd been happy, and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.''
* {{Foil}}: Meursault and just about everyone else.
* UsefulNotes/FrenchCourts: Ends in the Algiers Assizes Court for murder.
* HeatWave: There is a recurrent heat wave in Algiers and the generally hot climate there has an effect on Meursault's mind.
* TheHeroDies: Though his death is never depicted, he knows in the end that it's coming soon.
* HollywoodAtheist: The law officials' attitude towards Meursault changes when they find out he's an atheist, and they try to portray him as a violent monster afterward.
** The prosecutor even said Meursault was worse than the [[SelfMadeOrphan parricide]] who will be tried after.
* IncriminatingIndifference: The prosecution's argument against Meursault is, essentially, "He didn't cry at his mother's funeral, therefore he's psychotic, therefore he deserves to die." It doesn't help that Meursault admits his guilt from the get-go.
* {{Jerkass}}: Raymond beats his girlfriend up and has a neighbor write a threatening letter to her, gets in a fight with the girl's brother, and when the neighbor and friend he got into this mess kills him, leaves him for dead. Salamano literally [[KickTheDog kicks his dog]], among other abuses. And the case can be made either way for Meursault.
* KangarooCourt: It's a fact that Meursault killed a man, so the court proceedings are meant to prove whether or not it was premeditated. Since there's no evidence to suggest it, the trial relies entirely on character witnesses, most of whom are actually supportive of Meursault. However, the prosecutor relies entirely on circumstantial testimony, insane leaps in logic, and outright theatrics to "prove" the act was premeditated. [[spoiler:[[DownerEnding And it works.]]]] As Meursault himself notes, he's completely removed from his own trial.
* LastNameBasis: Meursault.
* LightIsNotGood: Meursault mentions the sun being particularly bright on the day of his mother's funeral, and when he shoots the Arab. Light and heat is a recurring motif throughout the book, for example: when waiting for the bus, the wake, the burial, and the aforementioned beach. Meursault thinks of all of those examples negatively. [[WhatDoYouMeanItsNotSymbolic Whether this means something is up to your interpretation.]]
* LonersAreFreaks
* NotSoStoic: [[spoiler: After spending the story completely calm and indifferent to absolutely everything, Meursault SNAPS at the priest at the book's end.]]
* OffWithHisHead: The death sentence was then carried out with the guillotine and until 1939, it was in public.
* PurpleProse: Invoked in the prosecutor's angry tirades against Meursault. Especially {{egregious}} when he is expounding upon the perceived emptiness of Meursault's soul.
* RedOniBlueOni: Raymond and Meursault.
* TheStoic: Meursault, of course. He feels emotions, but not for the same reasons as most people, and he doesn't really show it.
* TooDumbToLive: Meursault. Or rather, Too Neutral To Live. He does things, usually, because there's no reason not to do them; the few things he enjoys are immediate pleasures like smoking and sex.
* UncattyResemblance: Lampshaded with Salamano. He's acquired his dog's scabs and sores, and the dog has acquired his stooped, neck-straining look.
* VerbalTic: Everything Masson says contains the phrase "and I'd even say."
* WorldOfCardboardSpeech: Ultimately, the World is a Cardboard, as Meursault states in the end:
--> ''From the dark horizon of my future a sort of slow, persistent breeze had been blowing toward me, all my life long, from the years that were to come. And on its way that breeze had leveled out all the ideas that people tried to foist on me in the equally unreal years I then was living through. What difference could they make to me, the deaths of others, or a mother's love, or his God; or the way a man decides to live, the fate he thinks he chooses, since one and the same fate was bound to “choose” not only me but thousands of millions of privileged people who, like him, called themselves my brothers. Surely, surely he must see that? Every man alive was privileged; there was only one class of men, the privileged class. All alike would be condemned to die one day; his turn, too, would come like the others.''