17 September 2015, The Tablet

The Meursault Investigation

by Kamel Daoud, trans. John Cullen, reviewed by Patrick West

 
L’Etranger by Albert Camus is one of the defining novels of the twentieth century. It opens with the now legendary words, “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know”, uttered by its nihilistic and taciturn protagonist, Meursault. The aimless French-Algerian youth later finds himself on a beach, armed with a pistol. Dazed and disorientated by the sun and the sea, he shoots dead an Arab.We never know the name of the Arab. The two never exchange a word. We never hear an Arab voice in the novel, not even during Meursault’s trial. Arabs are rendered merely a lurking, mute menace. It is this silence that Kamel Daoud seeks to redress and invert in The Meursault Investigation, a retelling of the story from the point of view of the slain Arab’s brother
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