It’s a shame high school reads are framed as a chore rather than a pleasure. Personally, I’ve had many classics – Romeo and Juliet and Catcher in the Rye to name a few – spoiled by uninterested teachers or themes just too heady for a fourteen year old kid. Camus’ The Stranger however, was a different story. It was a fun read that came equipped with what seemed to be the most DGAF philosophy: existentialism. An odyssey of dreamlike scenes teeming with violence, sex, and color, fourteen year old me, and readers world-wide, were enthralled with the book’s surreal quality. It’s one you can appreciate at any age, yet even now it’s blistering images and scenes feel worthy of illustration, making the news that it’s been reintroduced as a graphic novel all the more exciting.
Between a bubbling emergence of progressive comic books, author inspired coloring books, and the announcement of graphic novels from Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood among others, it seems the publishing world is falling in love with illustration all over again. In the case of many books, paralleling the text with illustration can amplify a read, bringing the sensory experience to a new awesome level. It’s also a way to champion creatives and create a more close knit community between writers and artists. It’s a symbiotic relationship that – at least gaging from the swarm of graphic work we’ve seen recently – can produce some remarkably creative content.
The illustrations for The Stranger were created by author and cartoonist Jacques Ferrandez. In addition to creating some stunning visuals for (predominantly French) comics, Ferrandez is also the name behind another illustrated Camus reboot, “The Guest” (a story from the collection Exile and the Kingdom). Literary illustration aside, Ferrandez has also produced several musical illustrations set to Miles Davis albums and they’re as exquisite as Beyoncé’s visual album, sans sexy dance moves and enhaced by incredible illustrations.
His edition of The Stranger comes to us, much like Camus’ original, out at a love for Algiers and a focused mediation it’s history of war, liberation, and continued identity politics.
Wrapping up an interview with Huffington Post, Ferrandez shared his own experience of the book:
“It seems to me that L’étranger is a novel with universal appeal. It has touched many a generation the world over since it appeared in 1942. There is something enigmatic to that book. Even if you read it and re-read it at different periods in your life, you never get a full grasp of its mystery… I do not know to what extent I have succeeded, but my intention was to make the reader feel what is happening in a very physical, sensory way.”
Featured image courtesy of Galerie Champaka, all other images courtesy of Huffington Post.