On Saturday 28 September, Cebo Mheli Mbatha, an 18-year-old student at the University of Cape Town, was murdered on Clifton beach. His death, in the wake of the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, casts another glare at the violence of South African society.
In Albert Camus' novel, The Stranger, the protagonist, Merseult, is sentenced to death for murdering "an Arab" on a beach in Algeria. The Arab is never named. Camus was renowned for his moral opposition to capital punishment, and he has woven this stance into the fabric of The Stranger. In the book's last chapter, Merseult recalls how his father had
[G]one to watch a murderer be executed. Just the thought of going had made him sick to his stomach. But he went anyway, and when he came back he spent half the morning throwing up.
This scene captures Camus' own experience, recounted in a posthumous autobiographical novel, in which he writes of his own father coming home after witnessing an execution, and vomiting. While Camus strongly denounced capital punishment, he was more interested in questions of consciousness, rather than blandishments of moral certainty.
The Stranger is about a man who is essentially indifferent to the...