The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

“The murderer got famous, and his story’s too well written for me to get any ideas about imitating him. He wrote in his own language. Therefore I’m going to do what was done in this country after Independence: I’m going to take the stones from the old houses the colonists left behind, remove them one by one, and build my own house, my own language.”

L’Étranger by Albert Camus published in 1942 was translated into English as The Stranger in 1946 and narrates a story of a man  Meursault who is shown to be devoid of emotions, believes the version of infidelity that his friend tell him and murders an Arab man in cold blood. The novel looks simple at the surface with a neat plot but once the surface is cracked, the dense meanings emerge and take over; it turns the novel into questioning the existence of man as well the inability of a human to find any inherent meaning and value of life.  Kamel Dauod picks up on the character that did not seem significant in The Stranger,the story of the Arab who was shot by Meursault in his book The Meursault Investigation.

It brings to light the writing technique that has been used in the past half century that picks out the insignificant characters from well-known books and create a story around them. For example Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys explores the story of Rochester’s mad wife in Jane Eyre.  One is filled with curiosity as to what is the backstory of such characters as well as what happens later.  The idea being to give voice to those characters that have being rendered silent in the original works.  The Meursault Investigation is narrated by Harun, the dead Arab’s younger brother who was only seven when his brother was shot dead. The Arab is given the name Musa in this novel and shows how Musa’s death changes his family for years to come.  Camus’s book shows Meursault as committing a baseless crime and giving irrational reasons for committing it therefore stating the idea of an individual facing an absurd universe.  Whereas in this novel, Harun tries to restore that which has been lost in The Stranger.

Daoud does not critique The Stranger in his novel rather he turns his focus on the modern day Algeria. How the Algerians have created a mess since they achieved independence in 1962. The character of Harun is wiser and more conscious of his actions than Meursault but the most important thing that binds both of them is the awareness of being strangers in their own homeland.  This book is bound to change the way one has read or understood Camus’s The Stranger.



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