Education: Stranger in Town

Pointing a finger at Schoolteacher Franklyn Olson, 23, the justice of the peace intoned: "Young man, your crime is as serious as if you had given them marijuana cigarettes." Olson's crime: assigning five schoolboys in Thompson, Mich, to read The Stranger, by France's late Nobel-prizewinning Novelist Albert Camus. Olson's sentence: a $100 fine and 90 days in the county jail.

Teacher Olson first read the sharp novel, one of the landmarks (1942) of existentialist fiction, when a woman professor gave it to him at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. A slow reader, he was impressed by the book's "contemporary relevance" and...

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