A Happy Death. All the Birds, Singing has yet to arrive for me to read, so instead I have decided to mark this centenary of Albert Camus’ birth by reviewing one – possibly my favourite – of his novels. This was the first book he wrote, yet it was not published until after his death, so I feel it lends a certain roundness to the centenary.
Much of the storyline would be familiar to those of you who have read L’Étranger, as it is very much a blueprint for this most famous of novels. However, I would have to say I prefer it – there is a youthfulness, perhaps even a naivety to this version, which I really enjoy.
In brief, the protagonist Mersault (for it is he, yet isn’t he) is given the oppourtunity of a lifetime, the chance to have enough money that he need never work again, on the condition he concentrates on living. The only downside is that he has to kill a man (the man offering him the money, nonetheless). He does this, travels round Europe, gets horribly sick, returns to North Africa, visits the House Above the World (possibly the most perfect place that now exists in my imagination) then leaves there and dies. And it is a beautiful death.
At only 106 pages this is a very short, but oh so sweet, examination as to whether a happy death is possible. If only it could have been so for the man himself. If you’ve never read any Camus, I urge you to read this first. If you’ve read lots of his work but not this, you know how good his books are, so just buy it.
The cover shown is the new Penguin edition. I can’t decide if I like it and I think this is a bad thing, though it does make me think of swimming off the Algerian coast, which I have never done, so it must be good, right?