Why? Because I love listening to NPR. I almost always hear a story that somehow relates to something I am teaching currently, or am planning to teach, or have taught in the past. Yesterday morning, on the way to work, I heard a story about Albert Camus – it would have been his 100th birthday. So, why is this interesting to me? Well, I’ve taught The Stranger before, and in my experience, it’s either a “love it” or “hate it” book. Mostly, this either/or situation is most often caused by a reader’s reaction to Meursault, the main character.
Regardless of one’s feelings for Meursault, though, one of the important things with The Stranger is understanding the context, and understanding Camus’ background. He was an Algerian-born Frenchman, or as the NPR story referred to such people, pieds-noirs. So, his knowledge of the racial tensions in Algeria was first-hand, based on experiences he lived. That was the basic premise of the story, along with the fact that Camus’ legacy is a tad bit controversial in his two native countries, due to a variety of circumstances.
What I also loved was that the story immediately following, which related to Camus’ essay “The Myth of Sisyphus”. I used the essay as method of introduction for students, so they would better understand Camus’ philosophy of absurdism. Basically, his view of life was there was no point to anything, because every day just included the same monotonous activities, and getting up each day meant you had to do it all over again. The NPR story related the premise of Camus’ essay – and his absurdist philosophy – to modern psychological research about “why people end up in boring jobs.” That connection, of course, is what ultimately made me say, “That is so cool!” to myself while driving to work. Talking to myself in the car of course makes me an even bigger nerd. However, what made me geek out the most was that it thrills me to see (or hear, in this case) when modern science, culture, basically anything in contemporary life, relates back to seminal pieces in literary history.
Until next time…