It is hard to believe that Catcher in the Rye is now 50 years old. If Caulfield had been born today, lived in France, and read Albert Camus, 03 would be the voice in his head. It is both provocative and penetrating. And it will not appeal to everyone's taste.
Not long after Salinger published Catcher in the Rye, Albert Camus published The Fall. Camus's self-proclaimed "judge-penitent" Jean-Baptiste Clamence reflects upon his life to a stranger in a bar in Mexico City. Clamence tells of his success as a wealthy Parisian defense lawyer who was highly respected by his colleagues; his crisis, and his ultimate "fall" from grace, and in the process explores themes of innocence, imprisonment, non-existence, and truth.
As in The Fall, 03 is a monologue. There is no action and no other characters speak. The setting is a bus stop in a suburb of France, MontpeÌürilleux, and the narrator is a high-school boy. From the shelter of his own bus stop, he watches each morning as a retarded girl who waits at the bus stop across the street for a bus to take her away. He is obsessed with her. But more specifically, he is obsessed with her innocence. His infatuation only provides a point of departure for a discursive trip through his mind and all he perceives.
Like Caulfield, he resides in the transitory station between childhood innocence and adulthood, a place where one can clearly observe the future, yet feels powerless to avoid its gravitational pull. He is already beginning to recognize his own complicity in the transformation he so desperately wants to resist.
"I had to imagine that my easy empathy for this girl and her spiky hair must apply just as much to a version of my own existence, an idea of what my life would be like if somebody took away, altogether or partly, the mental faculties that let me show off for adults and be rewarded for it (though I had long ago realized that the kingdom they claimed to rule was nothing but one tiny province in a much bigger empire where they were nothing but pawns: that in dealing with grown-ups you kept coming up against one kind of disability or another, a thing that was disconcerting at first, but more and more reassuring when you realized that the judgments they handed down had no authority)."
Camus earned the Nobel Prize in literature, in part, for giving Existentialism a voice. Many authors have since followed in his path, but few have given us such a rich portrait in the process. What could easily have just been a conceptual piece (the book is one long paragraph) hits the mark as engaging as well.
If you enjoy Camus or the edges of Catcher in the Rye, 03 is worth the read.
As a counterpoint, if you are put off by profanity or the indignities that accompany unfiltered thought, this may not be the book for you. Also, while the length feels natural for the story, some people may feel put off paying full price for essentially a novella.
Five stars for concept, perspective, and language; four stars for dimension and length.
Rounding up for novelty of subject to five stars.
Hope this review helps you.