One of the newest stars in the field of French literature is Albert
Camus, who left the choice of his material to the editor. The follow-
ing is the final chapter in his short novel The Stranger. The novel
is the tragic chronicle of an enigmatic though average-placed young
man living in Algiers, with a job, his girl, his few bachelor friends
and one day his inexplicable killing of an Arab, an act which, as he
says, was "pure chance." Tried and sentenced to death largely on
the basis of his "callousness" a short time earlier at the death of his
mother in a home for the poor, the young man is found in the last
chapter awaiting the guillotine.
I HAVE JUST REFUSED, for the third time, to see the prison chaplain.
I have nothing to say to him, don't feel like talking--and shall be seeing him quite soon enough, anyway. The only thing that interests me now is the problem of circumventing the machine, learning if the inevitable admits a loophole.
They have moved me to another cell. In this one, lying on my back, I can see the sky, and there is nothing else to see. All my time is spent in watching the slowly changing colors of the sky, as day moves on to night. I put my hands behind my head, gaze up, and wait.
This problem of a loophole obsesses me; I am always wondering if there have been cases of condemned prisoners' escaping from the implacable machinery of justice at the last moment, breaking through the police cordon, vanishing in the nick of time before the guillotine falls. Often and often I blame myself for not having given more attention to accounts of public executions. One should always take an interest in such matters. There's never any knowing what one may come to. Like everyone else I'd read descriptions of execu-