The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

themeursaultinvestigation

The Meursault investigation by kamel daoud

Algerian fiction

Original title – : Meursault, contre-enquête

Translator – John Cullen

Source – personnel copy (books for Syria from waterstones )

Every year there is a few books in translation that seem to break free of being just in the circle of fans of translated fiction well last year this was one of those books, it made a lot of the end of year lists.It is also the winner of three prize in France. All this from a book that is based in an older book by the French writer Albert Camus  for what kamel Daoud has done is taken part of the story from the novel the Outsider where Meursault the anti-hero of The outsider kills an Arab(that is all we are told even thou this killing is mention as the main character in the book say 26 times the person killed is never mentioned just refered to as the Arab) .Well this is the story of The Arab as told 70 years later by his brother .

I’ll tell you this up front: The other dead man, the murder victim, was my brother. there is nothing left of him only me, Left ti speak in his place, sitting in this bar, waiting for condolences no one’s ever going to offer. Laugh if you want, but this is more or less my mission: I peddle offstage silence , trying to sell my story while theater empties out. As a matter of fact, that’s the reason why I’ve learned to speak this language, and to write it too so I can speak in place or a dead man, ao I can finish his sentences for him.The murder got famous, and his story’s to well written for me to get any ideas about imitating him.

Harum in the bar talking about his brother the dead Arab from the Novel The outsider.

This is the story of Harum , who tries to describe what happened 70 years earlier in the events that lead to the death of his Brother Musa, that killing on a sunny beach in an act of random killing by a French man on a sunny day  in Algeria seventy years ago as the country tried to break free of France. But the story follows harun life after that event as he starts to tell the wider story of post colonialism and in some ways the rise of islam in his country all this is a strange mirror to events that happened in recent years with the Arab spring seen as a freeing of the Arab world, which maybe it is could Daoud have written this book twenty years ago ? But also the heart of this is what has happen in France in the last years with a number of the people involved in the attacks having connection to north africa . A timely story of what scars remain from France’s time in North africa , well any western nation it could easily be india or pakistan the story could have come from a kipling story say .

Oh what a joke! Do you understand now? Do you understand why I laughed the first time I read your hero’s book? there i was , expecting to find my brothers last words between those covers, the description of his breathing, his features, his face , his answers to his murderer: instead I read only two lines about an Arab. the word “Arab ” appears twenty-five times, but not a single name, not once

Camus book doesn’t mention Musa name just calls him an Arab in the novel The outisder .

What Daoud has brilliantly done is taken a small character in a well-known book and given him a real life and a name. I reviewed The secret history of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vasquez , which took a character from the great Latin american novel of Conrad Nostromo and told his story from a native point of view rather like this book flipping the story to tell it from the other angle almost like a reply to the first book . why was Musa just called the Arab was he just the same as those bit part actors in the original Star trek given a red tunic and expected to die with no real name or back story.Daoud highlights what Camus missed the real person. This is the first of a number of books from last year I will be reviewing in the coming weeks as I look forward to the first longlist in the new man booker international coming in March as I try to wrap up some books i missed from the last year.

Have you read any great books based on another novel to start with?

 

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vicky blake
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 11:26:24

    Great review. I bought this a couple of months ago with the intention of reading it and The Outsider back to back but haven’t done it yet. The book that springs to mind where a character from one book is used as the basis for another novel is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. It’s a book I love but also find incredibly disturbing. It takes ‘the mad woman in the attic’ in Jane Eyre, Rochester’s wife, and asks the question what happened to make her like she is. It humanizes her. It’s a beautiful piece of writing and very, very sad.

    Reply

  2. Tony
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 12:09:57

    I’m a little less positive about this kind of book as I’m always wondering whether it stands on its own merits or whether it needs its more famous predecessor as a crutch. While there’s a lot to like about this, without ‘L’Etranger’, I don’t think it would be a particularly sought after read…

    Reply

  3. Lisa Hill
    Jan 28, 2016 @ 03:27:52

    Like Vicky, I’ve read Wide Sargasso Sea, but I wasn’t all that impressed. While the idea of bringing to life a character not developed because of the author’s cultural limitations is an important symbolic one, the book (as Tony says) needs to stand on its own merits. Books written for an agenda rarely succeed IMO, no matter how worthy the agenda might be.
    Do you think it’s a good novel independent of its links to Camus?

    Reply

  4. Trackback: Man booker international prize prediction post 2016 | Winstonsdad's Blog
  5. Trackback: 2016 Best Translated Book Award Longlist – combined reviews | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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