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WILSON, Colin



The Outsider

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What can be said to characterize the Outsider is a sense of strangeness, or unreality. This is the sense of unreality, that can strike out of a perfectly clear sky. Good health and strong nerves can make it unlikely; but that may be only because the man in good health is thinking about other things and doesn't look in the direction where the uncertainty lies. And once a man has seen it, the world can never afterwards be quite the same straightforward place. Barbusse has shown us that the Outsider is a man who cannot live in the comfortable, insulated world of the bourgeois, accepting what he sees and touches as reality. "He sees too deep and too much", and what he sees is essentially chaos . For the bourgeois, the world is fundamentally an orderly place, with a disturbing element of the irrational, the terrifying, which his preoccupation with the present usually permits him to ignore. For the Outsider, the world is not rational, not orderly. When he asserts his sense of anarchy in the face of the bourgeois' complacent acceptance, it is not simply the need to cock a snook at respectability that provokes him; it is a distressing sense that the truth must be told at all costs , otherwise there can be no hope for an ultimate restoration of order. Even if there seems no room for hope, truth must be told. ... The Outsider is a man who has awakened to chaos. He may have no reason to believe that chaos is positive, the germ of life (in the Kabbala, chaos— tohu bohu —is simply a state in which order is latent; the egg is the "chaos" of the bird); in spite of this, truth must be told, chaos must be faced.

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