Monday, August 1, 2011

Is There A Happy Death?...

A happy death is the first novel by Albert Camus. After writing it, the acclaimed writer decided not to publish it and went on to write other novels like The Outsider and The Plague which were deemed classics by critics. After his death the manuscript of A happy death was discovered and going by the well known tradition of cashing in the death of famous writers by publishing every crap written by them, it was published.

It is not surprising that Camus decided not to publish this novel as it is terribly lacking in plot and character development. It is obvious that this novel developed ultimately into The outsider, a classic, though they are poles apart in the underlying philosophy. The plot of a guy, even the name is similar, remorselessly murdering another man is the common factor.

A Happy Death is the story of Patrice Mersault, a poor Algerian clerk leading a boring work life and an aimless relationship. He happens to meet his lover's ex-love, a rich cripple. He convinces Mersault that to be happy, it is essential to have time and time can be bought by money. So only way to be happy in life is to become rich. Mersault kills the guy, take all his money and abscond, probably by the invalid's consent. There ends the first part of the novel named as Natural death.

In the second part, titled Happy Death, we see Mersault travelling from city to city in train. But travel makes his condition more miserable. Then he starts living with three of his lady friends, all of whom are in pursuit of happiness. When this also does not serve the purpose, Mersault decides to stay alone in country side buying a huge house with the money that he stole. He starts feeling happy but gets a fatal disease and dies, a happy death.

The novel is ambiguous. It does not reveal much about the relationship between characters or the reason they act the way they do. But it is worth reading for its strong, underlying philosophy.