If you study French GCSE these days, you have to read lots of worthy newspaper articles about equality and sports provision. But in 1978, The Outsider (L’Etranger) by Albert Camus was the set text that helped form that generation’s zeitgeist.
I know that punk was formed by people who dropped out of school and lived in squats in London, but for people like me, punk started with things encountered at school. As a sheltered, small-town kid studying languages, this 1942 French novel L’Etranger switched on any number of lights; the idea that it’s OK to feel apart from regular society, that the outsider is superior to those who don’t think and that ‘normal’ behaviour is not necessarily normal. The main character, Mersault:
“…has an outburst about his frustrations and the absurdity of the human condition, and his personal anguish without respite at the meaninglessness of his freedom, existence and responsibility. He expresses anger about others, saying that they have no right to judge him for his actions or for who he is, that no one has the right to judge another.” Wikipedia
And isn’t that just punk? (Not the killing someone, just the attitude…..)
Poor old Robert Smith of The Cure must have felt the same. He had no idea of the political fuss that his song about the book would create for many years.
“The song (Killing an Arab) was written in 1976, when I was 16. We used to play it in a pub in Crawley and it didn’t seem that earth shattering at the time, and it seemed quite ludicrous to me that it suddenly became an issue afterwards.”
So, if you weren’t blessed with Charlie’s Angels looks and couldn’t dance disco or be some kind of sports talent, The Outsider mentality helped you to get through, knowing that you were actually superior to all of these normal sheep-like kids.
Long live punk!