It is commonly said that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Most people have a story where this wasn’t true and here’s mine.
Help me internet! Who designed this cover?
This amazing cover to Camus’ “The Stranger” got me to read this book and my life was never the same afterward. But before I tell the story of its impact on me I must ask: “Does anyone know about who made this cover or who this troupe on the cover is?”
This cover was one of my first exposures to conceptual art. I had never seen anything like this: the make-up, the absurd yet regimented uniforms, the implication of “theatah.” I had to know more. I went out and bought my own copy of the book for a few dollars at a local used book store and read the strange work whose famous beginning Today mother died. Or perhaps yesterday, I’m not sure clearly signaled to me that I wasn’t in the realm of school-sanctioned literature anymore. The cover feels French (certainly likely giving Camus’ Algerian-French heritage) and recalls some of the set design of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and thus dates it to the late 60’s early 70’s, but cover art information is not included in my copy with this art. If anyone knows, please @-message me on Twitter!
I won’t say that I liked the book, I won’t say that I liked the protagonist, Mersault, but the worldview behind the character was rich and read like a thought experiment about what it would be like to have emotions stripped from you, what the burden of murder might be, and what might make life worth living.
It was my introduction to Camusian Existentialism and the book left a monumental wake in my life. Owing to the cover and the book I would learn French and buy a copy of “L’Étranger,” read it in its native idiom and still come up short in an attempt to qualtify and compartmentalize it. My inability to compartmentalize it and box it up lead me to search for more answers and, utlimately, lead to my Philosophy BA.