The Outsider, by Albert Camus

Duration:  1 hour, 30 minutes

First broadcast:  Sunday 03 November 2013

Listen at:

By Albert Camus (based on ‘The Stranger’), dramatised by John Retallack
from the translation by Sandra Smith

In Camus's classic existential novel Meursault refuses to pretend and is prepared to face alone the indifference of the universe. To coincide with the centenary of Camus's birth.

Meursault ….. Alex Lanipekun
Magistrate ….. Michael Bertenshaw
Celeste ….. Arthur Hughes
Chaplain ….. John Norton
Prosecutor ….. Sean Murray
Marie ….. Priyanga Burford
Salamano ….. Sean Baker
Raymond ….. Stephen Hogan
Fifi ….. Sirine Saba
Defence ….. David Seddon
Nurse ….. Carys Eleri

Director: David Hunter

This novel has one of the most distinct 'voices' in post-war literature.

Broadcast to commemorate the centenary of Camus' birth (alongside THE INSIDER by Leila Aboulela and a feature programme INSIDE THE OUTSIDER).

The Story
Meursault is a young man living in Algiers, who narrates his own story with striking neutrality. We meet him as he hears of his mother's death. He goes to her funeral, but doesn't cry, and doesn't want to see her body. The next day he goes to the beach and starts a relationship with Marie, an old colleague. Meursault starts to hang out with his neighbour Raymond, a shady, dubious, violent character, and gets drawn into Raymond's dispute with his Arab ex-girlfriend and her brother. Raymond is being watched and followed by a group of Arabs. Meursault and Marie go to the beach with Raymond – they enjoy themselves, but then the men run into the Arabs and in the melee Raymond is stabbed and wounded.

Later, Meursault walks alone on the beach – he has previously, and sensibly, relieved Raymond of his handgun. Suddenly, overwhelmed by the brightness and the heat he finds himself shooting one of the Arabs dead – possibly in self-defence. This is described in a very removed, hazy fashion. Meursault is arrested and thrown in jail. In Court the preoccupation seems more with Meursault's lack of remorse for his crime and his lack of emotion at his mother's funeral than the circumstances of the shooting. The jury bring a guilty verdict and he is condemned to death. Meursault manages to adapt to prison but can't accept his imminent death. Acceptance comes once he is provoked into an outburst by the chaplain. In this outburst, Meursault declares that he really believes the world is meaningless and indifferent. Once he has embraced this idea, he is happy and willing to accept his death and the hatred of the crowd.

The Treatment
Figaro's Top 100 books of the twentieth century place L'Etranger first; it is to modern European literature what Hamlet is to the classical repertoire. Yet there is no Claudius, no Gertrude; only a few minor players who later give evidence for or against him. Meursault carries the full weight of this text, he is always on stage.

The dramatization is based on Sandra Smith's recent translation which renders Camus' prose with a clarity and immediacy that rings true for the contemporary ear.

The Complementary WIRE – THE INSIDER by Leila Aboulela

THE OUTSIDER poses as many questions as it answers, particularly in the area of how Camus deals with the Arabs. One could only write of "The Arab" in the way that Camus does if you were living at a certain moment in colonial history. The Arabs are never named. They do not speak. They are not summoned as witnesses in the Court. They are a strange shady presence dressed (in this translation) in "boiler suits". Conor Cruise O'Brien said "The reader does not quite feel that Meursault has killed a man. He has killed an Arab".

Little dates about the emotional and aesthetic approach of the novel but some sort of response to the Arab question is definitely called for. THE INSIDER written by Leila Aboulela and produced by Jonquil Panting provides some counterpoint and opens up a very interesting discussion/dynamic for the Radio 3 listener. (to tx on the previous evening, 2nd November).

John Retallack (dramatist)
John is uniquely qualified to dramatize this novel. Catherine Camus declared that his version of THE PLAGUE was the best stage adaptation she had seen in any language.

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