I have read the novel A Happy Death by Albert Camus. In this novel Mersault (the absurd hero) at one point says to his girlfriend, "Hello, image!". I am wondering why he calls his girlfriend "image". I am quoting here the relevant part from the novel.

After making love, at that moment when the heart drowses in the released body, filled only with the tender affection he might have felt for a winsome puppy, Mersault would smile at her and say, "Hello, image."

1 Answer 1


So from the context, here's my understanding:

A common trend that's observed from a lot of A Happy Death is the treatment of women as mere objects, rather than as human beings. This is portrayed quite well in the beginning of that paragraph:

The natural stupidity which glowed in her eyes emphasized her remote, impassive expression.

The remark, "hello, image" is slightly misleading. The meaning of image used here doesn't mean image as in a photograph, but rather an image i.e. a guise, appearance. You need to remember that this was actually written in French before translation. The phrase used is

"Bonjour, apparence"

Apparence in this context, to quote the Collins French-English dictionary, is

"...guise to refer to the outward appearance or form of someone or something."

Mersault is quite literally greeting Marthe's physical appearance rather than her as a person. If you were to put it more into modern term, it might be something like, "Hello, body". This plays into the character of Mersault who only values his girlfriend for making other guys around him jealous and for being his personal eye-candy (along with other kinds of candy).

I hope this helped!

  • I guess this is the correct answer, but I've asked a native French speaker if the meaning/nuance of "apparence" fits with this.
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 8, 2019 at 7:11
  • @Randal'Thor "apparence" can refer to external appearance and to "appearance" as opposed to reality. The answer is based on the first meaning; since I haven't read the novel, I don't know to what extent the second meaning is relevant.
    – Tsundoku
    May 8, 2019 at 9:22

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