The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud


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?


The exchange of princesses by Chantal Thomas




The exchange of princesses by Chantal Thomas

French fiction

Original title – L’exchange des princesses

Translator – John Cullen

Source – review copy


“Trophy Wife”

No nobody wants to be
No no one’s lover
No matter what they say
Lovers know they are the ones
Who one day have to go

Trophy wives
I know they wander
And find a young  young man
Trophy wives
I know they wander

One time you were a good rabbit
To all the girls
And all their lovely mothers
You tried a piece of everything
Now nothing turns you on

Trophy wives
I know they wander
And find a young young man
Trophy wives
I know they wander

I choose the National song Lyric Trophy wives although a modern term were the princesses trophy wives ?

Another challenge I tried for this woman in translation month was this book a french translation and a historic novel .I like 20th and late 19th century in fiction so I am not adverse to historic fiction but haven’t always connected to fiction from times earlier than that . But I was offered this kindly by Other press and I just liked the cover and with woman in translation month in the distant future I decided to give this one a whirl . Chantal Thomas is a noted writer philosopher and historian .Her best known book is Farewell my queen , which was about the last days of Marie Antoinette .This is her latest of  twenty books in various area she has published in the last thirty year .This book is also being made into a film .

Mile de montpensier is frowning ,She mutters that her corset’s too tight , that is beastly cold in the coach .Her father remains calm , but underneath the kind facade his impatience is perceptible .He wants to have done with this Farewell farce .

Sad really father seeing his daughter off for what might be the last time .

The exchange of princesses is novel of a true event in history when Philippe the second the leader of france , but by 1721 his life had taken its toll and with time running short he and the king of Spain worked out a plan that saw Phillippe son his chosen heir Louis Vx so he has chosen a wife for his daughter the four year old daughter of the King of Spain .As part of this deal their own twelve year old daughter is to marry another Spanish prince ,The book follows the two young princesses as they take the then actually quite long journey from each royal court , which sees how each princess fairs as they trade princesses to try to end years of conflict between the two countries .As one is to become heir to the throne through her husband and the other to marry a prince of Asturias but no heir .

Mile de montpensier ‘s people are returning to Paris ,Her cortege will form up again , just as before , except now the Infanta will occupy her place .Mile de montpensier her self sets out at the head of what was the infanta’s cortege .The french princess is surround exclusively by spanish courtiers , men at arms and servants ,

Imagine being left with a group of people from another country at just twelve years old so scary I think .


There is a saying truth is stranger than fiction , well this book is a perfect example of this . Now we know here in the uk how important royal marriages are and how much they mean to the country .But go back a couple of centuries and these royal marriages were more political than now as the royal families still had powers in their countries . So under this way of thinking marrying an eleven year old heir to the french throne to a four-year old princesses with the loss of your own daughter as part of the bargain is considered ok . I found this idea now such a scary concept for the girls and Chantal does get this across well to be pulled from your own world to another place and culture was so difficult .I felt the time with out feel overwhelmed by being in the time Chantal Thomas has a subtle story telling style that feels modern  but drags you into the past .

Have you a favourite historic novel in tranlsation ?

June 2021


%d bloggers like this: