‘Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.’ The opening lines of Albert Camus’s 1942 novel The Outsider are among the most famous in literature. With them begins the story of Meursault (we never know his first name), a lowly young settler in French colonial Algeria. Unmoved by the death of his mother, his detached, matter-of-fact nature puts him at odds with society.
At the heart of the novel is a murder on a beach in Algiers at two o’clock in the afternoon, the result of a confrontation that pits Meursault and his streetwise pimp friend, Raymond, against a group of unnamed Arabs. The latter are out for revenge because of Raymond’s threatening behaviour towards the sister of one of them. A fight ensues. But when Meursault sees them for a second time he is overcome by the sun’s heat, loses his self-control and shoots one of the Arabs dead with five