I love literature, and when I read Albert Camus’ The Stranger and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot they shook me to the core. I read literature looking for truth, and these books challenged the truths I believed. By God’s grace he caused a faith that could not be shaken to remain in me, and as my understanding of the Bible has grown I have become more and more convinced that all literature should be read from and evaluated against a biblical worldview.
For these reasons I am really excited about the opportunity to read The Stranger with Leland Ryken–and you can do it too. My copy of this book is only 123 pages.
Here are some highlights from the introductory post over at The Gospel Coalition:
The first reason why Christians should read Camus the novelist is thus a narrative and aesthetic reason: Camus is a great storyteller and provides the materials and occasion for artistic entertainment. The Stranger is worth reading just for the brilliance of its style. The example of John Milton is instructive at this point. Although Milton eventually came to deplore the moral viewpoint of the Roman poets who had fired his youthful imagination, he nonetheless records that “their art I still applauded.” After all, the image of God in people is what enables them to create form and beauty. I have always relished the aristry of The Stranger despite the distance I feel from the worldview that it offers for my approval.
The subject of literature, I tell my students repeatedly, is human experience. Literature rarely gives us new information. What it does instead is put us in touch with human experience, clarifying that experience in the process. The Stranger performs that function to a preeminent degree.
In his own day and subsequently, Camus was regarded as an existentialist. The protagonist of The Stranger (whom Camus professed to admire) is an existential hero: encompassed in a world of total subjectivity, regarding his own existence of the moment as the only reality, denying the possibility of supernatural reality and its consolations, living under the shadow of death, and operating on the premise that life itself is the highest value.
The literary and philosophical movement with which Camus was most thoroughly identified in his own day was the absurdist movement. It is hardly too much to say that The Stranger was the “poster book” of the absurdist movement. Fellow French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an essay on The Stranger that helped to make it famous. In it he wrote, “Absurdity means divorce, discrepancy. The Stranger is . . . a novel of discrepancy, divorce, and disorientation.” Sartre also related the style of the book to this absurdist viewpoint, noting that every sentence is self-contained, with the world being “destroyed and reborn from sentence to sentence.”
I hope to find time to re-read The Stranger in coming days.
If you’d like to strengthen your biblical worldview and the big story of the Bible, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology is intended (in part) to provide people with a guided tour of the Bible. I hope and pray it will help people grow in their understanding of the Bible, one of the results of which will be that they are more able to understand literature, life, and the people around them.