My first thought, while reading the short, simple, almost choppy, sentences of the earlier chapters, was that it must be a translation issue (it was originally written in French), and that surely a novelist as highly regarded as Albert Camus would write sophisticated, eloquent prose. However, by the time the narrator is imprisoned, awaiting execution, the language becomes philosophical and the sentences longer and more diverse in structure. My conclusion is that it was written this way to achieve a particular effect, to show a man who neither thinks nor feels deeply – he is unaffected by his mother’s death, and agrees to marry Marie if she wants, but admits he doesn’t think he loves her, but also doesn’t believe that matters.
He murders a man as if in a dream, blames the sun (as much as anything else) for his actions. He is either not capable of lying, or not willing to lie, and he is unable to show remorse at his trial or during the investigation, convincing the court that he is soulless. Camus explains in the afterword that it is, at least in part, “the story of a man who, without any heroic pretensions, agrees to die for the truth.”
But when he has no future to distract him from the present, he is transformed, and the eloquence of the prose reflects this.
“[E]verybody knows that life isn’t worth living. And when it came down to it, I wasn’t unaware of the fact that it doesn’t matter very much whether you die at thirty or at seventy since, in either case, other men and women will naturally go on living, for thousands of years even. Nothing was plainer, in fact. It was still only me who was dying, whether it was now or in twenty years’ time.”
I love that this is such an unusual tale with an anti-hero at its center, but one who I can relate to very easily and suffer and discover truths alongside. A simple yet complex being who doesn’t express deep emotions but feels more comfortable with logic as his guide.