is one of those nobel-prize-winnnig books you see mentioned every now and then, but you don't know if you'll really ever read it yourself. It's such a simple story, but it's so profound and thought-provoking. Basically, a guy kills another guy in self defense and goes to trial over it. That's really all there is to the story. But what makes it so thought-provoking is the personality of the guy. He sends his mother to a nursing home, doesn't cry at her funeral, smokes a cigarette and drinks a cup of coffee immediately after the funeral, and gets a new girl friend the day after the funeral. This makes him suspect. The mob thinks that maybe he has no feelings. They think that maybe he's an awful man that isn't fit to be in public. They think that maybe the murder wasn't in self-defense after all. It's scary to me that people could think a man is a callous bastard just based on the feelings a guy did or didn't have for their mother. What's the real line between civilized and savage? Is a person not civilized just because they are less demonstrative about their emotions than most people? Is it a crime to sleep with a girl you just met just because your mother was put in the ground the day before? It's just shocking to see how small of a thing can demonize a person in the eyes of a mob.
I think, however, that the most shocking thing to me about this book was to realize that in 1942 France, the death penalty was still beheading by guillotine. That seems as uncivilized to me as modern day societies that still engage in stoning. Well, frankly, I think all death penalties are barbaric, but some seem more barbaric to me than others. The last guillotining of a man in France was in 1977, but they didn't officially retire it as a form of execution until 1981!