I am currently engaged in a number of reading challenges, largely over-lapping:

:: to read the fiction on my shelves that belongs to me and that I have never read (about 47 books left to go)

:: to read my unread kindle volumes (36 and counting; this is lower priority and I still get led astray, so this number keeps rising – although now I’m commuting again my reading will be more kindle-focused again)

:: to read more books I feel I ought to have read (some of which I own, some of which I just have access to – not deliberately buying any)

I may get through another 20-odd books this year, so the main watchword is variety.

To this end I just read Camus for the first time, and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. Given the only plot synopsis I knew of The Stranger was the rather inaccurate one given in Scenes of a Sexual Nature (in which Rick Grimes-to-be tries to impress a pretty French girl who is reading Camus – until his wife intervenes and humiliates him), the only things I was pretty sure not to expect were a sheriff and zombies. I was dead right there, although an early reference to the Wild West made me laugh more than I suspect many people do at this slim volume on the dangers of emotional disengagement and fatalism.

A young man takes each day as it comes, aloof, unambitious, disinterested. Floating on the tides of life, he becomes embroiled in the romantic misdemeanours of an aggressive neighbour. Soon he finds life has swept him into darker waters, and he struggles to explain how he got there.

He’s pretty unsympathetic and his actions are ultimately neither acceptable, explicable or forgivable. It’s a car crash in slow motion, but the prose has a clarity and tone that is beguiling. I struggled with his attitudes, finding them entirely alien, and with the climax – in which he finally learns to care about his fate, only to reject it and accept whatever happens, happens.

This may be the first book in a long time that I both feel I enjoyed, and that I really don’t know what to do with. I think I’ll be brooding about it a lot over the coming days.