The Meursault Investigation
Translated by John Cullen
Other Press, June 2015
He was the brother of “the Arab” killed by the infamous Meursault, the antihero of Camus’s classic novel. Seventy years after that event, Harun, who has lived since childhood in the shadow of his sibling’s memory, refuses to let him remain anonymous: he gives his brother a story and a name—Musa—and describes the events that led to Musa’s casual murder on a dazzlingly sunny beach.
In a bar in Oran, night after night, he ruminates on his solitude, on his broken heart, on his anger with men desperate for a god, and on his disarray when faced with a country that has so disappointed him. A stranger among his own people, he wants to be granted, finally, the right to die.
The Stranger is of course central to Daoud’s story, in which he both endorses and criticizes one of the most famous novels in the world. A worthy complement to its great predecessor, The Meursault Investigation is not only a profound meditation on Arab identity and the disastrous effects of colonialism in Algeria, but also a stunning work of literature in its own right, told in a unique and affecting voice.
About the Authors
Kamel Daoud is an Algerian journalist based in Oran, where he writes for the Quotidien d’Oran—the third largest French-language Algerian newspaper. He contributes a weekly column to Le Point, and his articles have appeared in Libération, Le Monde, Courrier International, and are regularly reprinted around the world. A finalist for the Prix Goncourt, The Meursault Investigation won the Prix François Mauriac and the Prix des Cinq-Continents de la francophonie.
John Cullen is the translator of many books from Spanish, French, German, and Italian, including Philippe Claudel’s Brodeck, Juli Zeh’s Decompression, Yasmina Reza’s Happy Are the Happy, and Chantal Thomas’s The Exchange of Princesses.
Praise for The Meursault Investigation
“Nothing…prepared me for [Daoud’s] first novel, The Meursault Investigation, a thrilling retelling of Albert Camus’s 1942 classic, The Stranger, from the perspective of the brother of the Arab killed by Meursault, Camus’s antihero. The novel...not only breathes new life into The Stranger; it also offers a bracing critique of postcolonial Algeria... The premise is ingenious: that The Stranger, about the murder of an unnamed Arab on an Algiers beach, was a true story…Meursault is less a critique of The Stranger than its postcolonial sequel.”
—The New York Times Magazine
“[A] stunning debut novel…[A]n intricately layered tale that not only makes us reassess Camus’s novel but also nudges us into a contemplation of Algeria’s history and current religious politics; colonialism and postcolonialism; and the ways in which language and perspective can radically alter a seemingly simple story and the social and philosophical shadows it casts backward and forward.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A tour-de-force reimagining of Camus’s The Stranger, from the point of view of the mute Arab victims.”
—The New Yorker
"Kamel Daoud's remarkable debut novel isn't simply a postcolonial reimagining but an allegory of his own country and time...[The Meursault Investigation] has the magnetism of its forebear, but its themes of voicelessness and vengeance feel utterly present-day."
"Camus’s The Stranger is vividly reimagined in Daoud’s intensely atmospheric novel...readers will be captivated."
—Publishers Weekly (Starred review)
"The nameless Arab victim of Albert Camus's The Stranger receives a biography and a name in this thoughtful, controversial rejoinder from the other side of the colonial question...Fiction with a strong moral edge, offering a Rashomon-like response to a classic novel."
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