The first lines of Albert Camus' The Stranger go something like this:
Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday
It's told in the present tense, as in, when Meursault is recounting the event it had happened that very same day. This tense continues for the next two paragraphs, emphasis mine:
The Home for Aged Persons is at Marengo, some fifty miles from Algiers. With the two o’clock bus I should get there well before nightfall. Then I can spend the night there, keeping the usual vigil beside the body, and be back here by tomorrow evening. I have fixed up with my employer for two days’ leave; obviously, under the circumstances, he couldn’t refuse. Still, I had an idea he looked annoyed, and I said, without thinking: “Sorry, sir, but it’s not my fault, you know.”
Afterwards it struck me I needn’t have said that. I had no reason to excuse myself; it was up to him to express his sympathy and so forth. Probably he will do so the day after tomorrow, when he sees me in black. For the present, it’s almost as if Mother weren’t really dead. The funeral will bring it home to me, put an official seal on it, so to speak. ...
Basically, these paragraphs have Meursault speaking as is the telegram arrived the day is speaking, the funeral the next day, and Meursault already having taken time to act on it and call off work. He can take the 2:00 bus tomorrow to arrive on time.
However, the next paragraph and the rest of the book go like this:
I took the two-o’clock bus. It was a blazing hot afternoon. I’d lunched, as usual, at Céleste’s restaurant. Everyone was most kind, and Céleste said to me, “There’s no one like a mother.” When I left they came with me to the door. It was something of a rush, getting away, as at the last moment I had to call in at Emmanuel’s place to borrow his black tie and mourning band. He lost his uncle a few months ago
Reading from this, he's speaking as if he had already taken the bus, lunched, and so forth in the past tense. This continues for the rest of the book and it's finally revealed at the end of the story that Meurasault was speaking in the past tense after the court case and just before the execution.
When I first read this, I thought it was a bad translation or something in the first few paragraphs. But every copy I can get hold of keeps the tenses as they are. The line "Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday" and its variations have even come to represent the book.
Why is the tense different for the first few paragraphs of The Stranger?