I Wasn’t a Teenage Existentialist

I’ve only recently begun thinking about the Cure’s first single.  A bit late, perhaps.  I’m not a fan of the band, but I was vaguely aware of the (not uncontroversial) title.  I only understood the significance last month because I read The Outsider, the novel that apparently inspired Robert Smith.  If you haven’t read the novel, I suggest you go away and do it now, before you read the rest of this blog: it should only take a couple of hours.

Back?  What did you think of the novel?  I only read it because I’d finished At the Existentialist Café a few weeks earlier: like The Cure and Camus, I’ve been aware of Existentialism for a while, but not paid much attention.  All of which probably suggests I’ve been a bit slow off the mark, culturally speaking: Robert Smith released the single when he was 20, and presumably read the novel when he was in his teens; what exactly took me so long?

Existentialism is, perhaps, appealing to teenagers.  It doesn’t really take much account of the tedious business of real life and living with other people.  I might be wrong (I often am), but I don’t think I would have found it very attractive at that age.  I was quite earnest in my late teens and unromantic.  When I was 18, the Berlin Wall was demolished and Nelson Mandela released.  I should have been ecstatic, but I remember being cynical about both: would either bring about any real change?

With hindsight, I think it’s difficult to say that the world is a better place now than it was in 1989, but I think that misses the point.  With more experience under my belt, I try to see good news for what it is: it doesn’t have to be world changing; a bit at a time will do.

As for Existentialism, it’s not something I’m ever going to buy into, but I hope I’m curious enough now to at least find out about these things.


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