When Raymond, Meursault, and Marie went to visit Raymond's friend, Masson, they decide to go to swim after a brief time but Masson's wife and Raymond refuse the idea and rather stay at the bungalow.

For the first time, perhaps, I seriously considered the possibility of me marrying her.
Masson wanted to have a swim at once, but his wife and Raymond were disinclined to move. So only the three of us, Marie, Masson, and myself, went down to the beach.
-The Stranger, chapter VI.

I am bewildered because earlier, in chapter III, when Raymond is first introduced to us, he is presented as a pimp(*).

Just then another man who lives on my floor came in from the street. The general idea hereabouts is that he's a pimp. But if you ask him what his job is, he says he's a warehouseman.
-The Stranger, chapter III.

I've always wondered if Masson's wife and Raymond were having an affair. Is anything mentioned about this, anywhere?

* The words used in the translation I read even reinforce more that idea. I do not posses an original copy of the book where, perhaps, I could find some enlighten in French.

1 Answer 1


The corresponding passage from Chapter VI in the French text goes as follows:

Pour la première fois peut-être, j'ai pensé vraiment que j'allas me marier.

Masson voulait se baigner, mais sa femme et Raymond ne voulaient pas venir. Nour sommes descendus tous les trois et Marie s'est immédiatement jetée dans l'eau.

The phrase "ne voulaient pas venir" literally means "did not want to come [with us]", whereas the English translation quoted in the question reads "were disinclined to move". "Disinclined" sounds less direct and sounds more formal than Meursault's language in the rest of Part 1 (compared to the French text, at least).

However, after the swim, Meursault tells us nothing about any unusual interaction between Raymond Sintès and Masson's wife. And later, Meursault, Masson and Raymond go for a walk on the beach while Marie and Masson's wife wash the dishes. During that walk, Meursault tells us that Raymond and Masson have known each other for a long time and had even lived together for some time. This would be a good moment to suggest that their might have been some cheating or a ménage à trois, but we hear about nothing of the sort. It would also have been a good moment to suggest an affair during this walk, since this is also when the three men encounter the two "Arabs", one of which had been beaten up by Raymond because he had suspected him of cheating him with his mistress; if Raymond had been having an affair with Masson's wife, the dramatic irony would have been particularly strong.

The corresponding passage from Chapter III in the French text goes as follows:

Juste à ce moment est entré mon deuxième voisin de palier. Dans le quartier, on dit qu'il vit des femmes. Quand on lui demande son métier, pourtant, il est "magasinier".

(Instead of using a noun, the French text uses a verb construction: "vivres des femmes".) Meursault also says:

Je trouve que ce qu'il dit est intéressant. D'ailleurs, je n'ai aucune raison de ne pas lui parler.

My translation:

I think [literally: I find] that what he says is interesting. Besides, I have no reason not to speak with him.

Elsewhere in the novel, Meursault never expresses a negative opinion about Raymond. (The most critical comment we get is in Part II, where Meursault says that Céleste is "better" ("vaut mieux") than Raymond.) After Raymond has beaten up his mistress, Meursault is even willing to serve as his witness at the police station. During the trial in Part II of the novel, the public prosecution says that Raymond is a procurer and Meursault was his accomplice and friend; his main function in this part of the novel seems to allow the prosecution to present Meursault as a "moral monster". Masson is also called as a witness. However, even during his long time in prison, Meursault never speculates about an affair between Raymond and Masson's wife. Based on this, I have no reason to assume that such an affair existed.

  • I see the point of Meursault being cunning enough to suspect that and let us know it but, why would Raymond even suggest it to Masson? That makes not much sense... I mean spontaneously. I don't know. Also I thought that at least one of them (the Arabs) was her brother and not her lover but we cannot actually reassure that. The translation I read is literal (vivres des femmes) word by word therefore no doubt of intelligibility. Do you know if Camus have ever mentioned anything about it?
    – SNR
    Feb 25, 2021 at 11:07
  • @SNR I read a book-length study about L'Etranger and nothing about an affair between Raymond and Masson's wife was even mentioned. The novel is not about them, after all. The novel's first part exists mainly for the sake of the trial in the second part.
    – Tsundoku
    Feb 25, 2021 at 11:10
  • I don't know in the book a mention of that either. Perhaps Camus could have mentioned it as somebody else reply.
    – SNR
    Feb 25, 2021 at 11:24
  • @SNR If you look at what Camus tried to achieve (see my other answers about the novel), it's just not important in the grand scheme of things.
    – Tsundoku
    Feb 25, 2021 at 12:02
  • And for that reason must not be answered... I don't understand. Does a question need necessarily to be relevant to the grand plot designed to not to be answered? And who judges if the question is relevant or not?
    – SNR
    Feb 25, 2021 at 17:52

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