L'Etranger & Reading in French

A few weeks ago, I finished reading my third complete book I've read in French,  L'Étranger by Albert Camus. It was the first French book that I read that I felt had complex literary meanings, and it was pretty daunting to try and absorb that in a different language. But it was so worth it.

I've been learning French in school for five years now, and am nowhere near fluent. But I've always had a certain love for all languages, of course, but especially French in particular. People always say it's one of the most beautiful languages in the world, and it's true- so much beauty resides in the sound and flow of the words. 

France and francophone countries have also had some pretty incredible contributions to culture. French art, music, and academia are super influential, and of course, French literature as well. 

Before L'Étranger (The Stranger), I read two other books in French: Le Petit Nicolas (A very popular French children's series), and Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince). Le Petit Nicolas was hilarious in its grade-school style, and I learned lots of new ways to say slapping and kicking and fighting. I read The Little Prince in English before in French, so I had already understood much of the message and story. 

With L'Étranger, I read it without reading the English version first. Camus is such a renowned author and one my friends adore, so I was scared to get a skewed impression from reading in French. Here's what I felt: 

- I definitely didn't get a deep impression from the book. I wonder if it's because there was a language barrier, but even when I understood the plot, I didn't feel very deeply immersed into the novel or the character. 

- Still, Merusault brought some fascinating things to mind. This concept of absolute detachment, not seeing what there is to care about in the world, living meaninglessly and dying meaninglessly and realizing life has no real meaning...It still left me thinking. 

- The sparseness of Camus' language, yet the subtle beauty of it, could be felt in French. I especially loved how he described interactions with different characters, as well as depicting the sun. 

Overall, I think I still need to read the book in English to compare. But in general, the process was very rewarding. As an English native speaker, I am fortunate to read most popular books in the language they were written in. It's a wonderful experience reading in other languages; you get to witness the author's original intent, and I now respect those who read outside of their native language so much. 

Have you ever read a book in another language? What did you feel?

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