Track of the Day: ‘Killing an Arab’ by The Cure

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Reader Marc adds to our nascent series on literary songs:

I only noticed this particular Track of the Day theme today, and I immediately went back through the previous entries to make sure you hadn’t run this one already. The Cure’s reference to Camus’s The Stranger is made pretty explicit in the refrain (“I’m alive / I’m dead / I’m the stranger / Killing an Arab”), but back in high school—when I both heard the song and read the book for the first time within a month of each other—I thought the song was a pretty good distillation of the novel’s central themes. Having read it a few more times since then, I now think it’s fairly superficial—but considering that the boys were not far out of high school themselves at the time, I think it holds up pretty well.

A haunting excerpt from the lyrics:

I can turn and walk away
Or I can fire the gun
Staring at the sky
Staring at the sun
Whichever I choose
It amounts to the same
Absolutely nothing

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)