Winner of the V&A Illustration Awards 2012 Book cover award. Find out more here: Victoria and Albert Museum Website.
'I fired four more times at a lifeless body and the bullets sank in without leaving a mark. And it was like giving four sharp knocks at the door of unhappiness.’
Meursault is a young French–Algerian who leads an outwardly blameless life – going to work as a clerk, eating at a small local restaurant, swimming with his girlfriend Marie. One day, he shoots a man dead on the beach. The man was an Arab and an enemy of Meursault’s friend Raymond: yet there was no reason for Meursault to seek him out. Questioned by his lawyer, the magistrate and the prison chaplain, Meursault can only say that he killed the man ‘because of the sun’. He refuses to display any remorse. What’s more, he does not appear to grieve the recent loss of his mother. It is for this refusal to be a hypocrite, as much as for the crime itself, that he is condemned to be executed.
The Outsider was a shocking assault on traditional mores when first published in 1942. It remains one of the most influential novels of the 20th century; a work of great literary power, in which the physical realities of Meursault’s experiences – the heat, dust and light of Algiers, the coolness of the sea, the longing for a cigarette in prison – contrast with the apparent emptiness of his interior being. Albert Camus was a key philosopher of the 20th century, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957, with judges citing the ‘clear-sighted earnestness [with which he] illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times’. Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author Damon Galgut has contributed a new introduction in which he explores the unsettling, subversive power of The Outsider and how it grew out of its author’s life and experiences. Matthew Richardson won the commission to illustrate this edition in the inaugural Book Illustration Competition, a prize awarded jointly by The Folio Society and House of Illustration. His series of superb collage images underline Meursault’s alienation from his environment.