Andrew Gallix

The Making of Meursault

Looking for 'The Outsider': Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic

By Alice Kaplan

University of Chicago Press 289pp £18 order from our bookshop

In July 1944 Albert Camus produced a counterfeit manuscript of his debut novel, The Outsider, published two years earlier. Josette Clotis, André Malraux’s partner, read the text aloud while Camus took it down in longhand, introducing the odd crossed-out variant to lend it the air of an early draft. In Looking for ‘The Outsider’, Alice Kaplan outlines this ingenious scam, born of wartime austerity, but does not say whether it proved successful or not. All the same, it speaks volumes about the book it sought to cash in on. The Outsider had already outgrown its title, acquiring the aura of a canonical work. Camus was now in a position to turn Bouvard and Pécuchet’s lowly profession – that of the copy clerk – into gold. All he had to do was replicate his near-indecipherable microscript, originally developed in response to an acute paper shortage.

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