Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Meursault, contre-enquête

Cet homme qui soliloque dans un bar, nuit après nuit, c’est le frère de l’Arabe tué par un certain Meursault dans un célèbre roman du XXe siècle. Soixante-dix ans après les faits, rage et frustration inentamées, le vieillard rend un nom et une histoire au mort resté “l’Arabe” jusqu’ici. Un roman profond sur les héritages qui conditionnent le présent et sur le pouvoir excep

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    s.p

    Jul 13, 2015

    rated it
    really liked it

     · 
    review of another edition

    Recommends it for:
    The Meursaults in all of us

    THE TRUE LITERARY EVENT OF THE YEAR (sorry Harper Lee)

    [T]he absurdity of my condition, which consisted in pushing a corpse to the top of a hill before it rolled down, endlessly.

    The curtain opening lines of Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation, ‘Mama’s still alive today,’ reveal a stage set for a pastiche of reproach and rapprochement towards Albert Camus’ The Stranger² which opens with ‘Maman died today.The Stranger, in which Camus’ anti-hero is tried for shooting a na

    [T]he absurdity of my condition, which consisted in pushing a corpse to the top of a hill before it rolled down, endlessly.¹

    The curtain opening lines of Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation, ‘Mama’s still alive today,’ reveal a stage set for a pastiche of reproach and rapprochement towards Albert Camus’ The Stranger² which opens with ‘Maman died today.The Stranger, in which Camus’ anti-hero is tried for shooting a nameless Arab on an Algerian beach, is the soil from which Meursault Investigation sprouts, in which the focal character Harun elucidates a life as the younger brother to Meursault’s victim. The story is told over drinks to in conversation with a silent (though responses are implied through Harun’s speech) interlocutor, akin to the style of Camus’ The Fall. Despite the bitter chastisements of Meursault, The Meursault Investigation and The Stranger become two sides of the same coin as Daoud crafts a ponderous and probing investigation into the absurdities of life and convictions, and elucidates the history, strife and his opinions of the existential failure of the Algerian Independence.

    That’s the best proof of our absurd existence, my friend: Nobody’s granted a final day, just an accidental interruption in his life.

    Where Camus’ left us with a body bleeding under the sun, Daoud has delivered us a life with a name and legacy. While Meursault’s pistol discharge was ‘knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness’, Harun’s retribution fires ‘two sharp raps on the door of deliverance.. Daoud creates an exciting antithesis of The Stranger, critiquing Meursault’s failure to name ‘his book’s sacrificial victim’ as a focused expression of the French’s view on their Islamic cohabitants in French-occupied Algeria in the early 1900s. The Meursault Investigation exists in a unique universe where Meursault was a walking, flesh-and-blood reality, but also where The Stranger is—as in our reality—a novel studied by college students the world over. ‘It’s as important to give a dead man a name as it is to name a newborn infant,’ preaches Harun, Daoud’s own Meursault, ‘if he calls my brother ‘The Arab’ it’s so he can kill him the way one kills time, by strolling around aimlessly.’ Harun grew up ‘a child facing the immensity of both the crime and the horizon’ in a land full of Meursaults that occupied his homeland. He vents his disgust with French colonialism, but also his revulsion of his homeland’s weaknesses and failure to reach the glory promised by independence. ‘This is a city with it’s legs spread open towards the sea,³ he says, chastising Oran for spilling of French people and culture into it’s heart. The division between French and Arab trouble him (‘Arab-ness is like Negro-ness, which only exists in the white man’s eyes’) and he is forced into a life where one must take sides even if sides don’t really matter in the grand non-scheme of things. He watched his country destroy itself during independence, scouring the land into ruin much like their occupiers had, and exhumes antipathy for the Islamic religious movements sweeping the people into a blind furor of senseless belief.

    The word Arab appears twenty-five times, but not a single name, not once.

    Despite his revulsion for Meursault and all he has come to represent, Harun and his adversary are juxtaposed in a way that highlight their similarities by examining their differences. ‘I was practically the murderer’s double,’ he admits. The two share the experience of having killed a man in cold blood, one at 2pm oppressed by the sun, the other at 2am transfixed by the moon. Unlike Meursault’s victim, Harun provides his own with a name (Joseph, the name shared by the husband to Mary, the mother of Jesus in the Bible, which implicates Harun’s killing as an act of destroying God much as how Meursault’s was an expression of meaninglessness in a world with an absent God) and history, yet the effect is parallel in both. ‘When your hero is in his cell, that’s when he’s best at asking the big questions,’ points out Harun, whose cell is not made of stone but the living flesh of his own making. It is here when Harun attempts to answer the big questions and Daoud tightens the laces between what initially appeared as two dissimilar characters. Both are tried for the murder, but judged for their character and not the smiting act with Harun criticized for not joining the revolution underground—not loving his ‘motherland’ enough—and Meursault for not loving his mother enough. Daoud expresses their ‘brotherhood’, but is careful to represent them more as two sides to the same coin, both cooperative and competitive. Like brothers, the two will disagree , squabble and fight, but there is a shared blood fueling their respective hearts. The two novels practically serve as parables of the other and as the novel spirals into introspection, the lines of fiction blur and one cannot be sure what belongs to Meursault and what to Harun. Is it possible that the assertion of Meursault killing the brother is a stand-in for any Frenchman slaying the brother? Has Harun become so engrossed by The Stranger, which he admits to having read*, that he has merged the story with his own to better assess himself and his own beliefs? The closer Daoud ties the two characters, the more astounding and important the message becomes.

    [R]eligion is public transportation I never use.

    Harun expounds on his disillusionment with the Islamic religious beliefs, which coincide with the fall of the kingdom during the disappointment with independence, a second-coming of sorts that didn’t resurrect but merely left all in damnation. Like Meursault, Harun has an absent father (who is named and given a history unlike the never-mentioned father of Meursault, similarly to Daoud’s’ treatment of both murder victims), a man who worked as a night watchman and fled his family. The absence of the father is the absence of The Father and the lack of a Watchman for all our souls.

    …I feel like…yelling at him to quit sniveling prayers, accept the world, open his eyes to his own strength, his own dignity, and stop running after a father who has absconded to heaven and is never coming back.

    The two anti-heroes accept a world without a chiseled moral code to provide meaning and Harun believes that the acceptance and cultivation of self-hood and a push for equal human justice from oppression is enough to assuage the void left by God’s nonexistence.

    These people need something bigger as a counterweight to the abyss….and I think it’ll lead us all to premature death, or to someplace on the edges of the earth where we can topple over into the void.

    Daoud’s depictions of the failures of Islamic belief, the meaninglessness in a world with an absent God, a world where ‘I alone pay the electric bill, I alone will be eaten by worms in the end’, has spawned some harsh criticism, such as a Facebook issued Fatwa by an Algerian imam and proclamations that he should be publically executed for his novel-expressed beliefs (read the article here while pondering the irony of condemning an author to death for commenting on a book in which the narrator is put to death for his own beliefs that God is a myth and life is absurd).

    Who could take life seriously afterwards?

    Oddly enough, I read most of this novel while either sitting on a beach or in a bar. While Daoud’s version can be a bit heavy-handed and less subtle than Camus’, and also a touch metaphor-heavy (which seems to be a trait of present literature to bulk up on metaphors, beleaguering the reader with them in hopes they’ll not notice the bad ones when the book would be better served by cutting anything less than the best), The Meursault Investigation makes for a worthy companion-competitor to The Stranger. The homages to Camus’ body of work are done with impressive and tactful flair, and the two become nearly inseparable in the realm of literature. Readers that haven’t read The Stranger or are quite rusty on , it needn’t worry about enjoying Daoud’s modern classic, which stands alone quite well. However, those well versed in Camus will find many subtle nods and jokes within and open a vast depth of understanding into both novels through their interrelated commentary. Having read them back-to-back was extraordinarily fulfilling, and I would recommend that as the most satisfying approach. The Meursault Investigation finds itself to be the more humanist of the two works at hand through a brotherhood and union with Camus’ famous work from which this one springs, yet still maintains the brooding and uplifting-bleakness that makes it’s predecessor so unforgettable.
    4.5/5

    I think something immense, something infinite is required to balance out our human condition.

    ¹ An homage to Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus, one of the many ways Daoud ties his philosophical investigations to Camus’ canon beyond The Stranger.

    ² The Stranger is sometimes translated as The Other, which Daoud toys with in passages such as:

    After I killed a man, it wasn’t my innocence I missed most, it was the border that had existed until then between my life and the crime…The Other is a unit of measurement you lose when you kill.

    The playfulness of the line is also it’s ingenuity; ‘The Other’ (note the capitalization) implies this border beyond oneself Harun bemoans the loss of, but also uses the emotional, moral and philosophical implications within Camus’s novel as a coined yardstick for existential (though Camus rejected the label of ‘existentialist’). The assertion of acknowledgement of connotation in the latter interpretation is comical as an ‘inside joke’ of sorts with readers deeply familiar with Camus’ novel and assumes the reader (who is an isn’t the student carrying around The Stranger in their backpack with whom Harun is conversing/dictating) already considers the weight of The Stranger as a measuring point in emotional and existential health.

    ³ This—along with the aforementioned quote ‘accidental interruption in his life where the pronoun assumes a male dominance over plurality for an experience that is neither distinctly male or female—is bound to raise an eyebrow among the socially conscious. There is feminine imagery everywhere in the book, often disturbing such as ‘the prostitute slash Algerian land and the settler who abuses her with repeated rapes and violence’ or the depiction of the liberated Oran becoming ‘the prostitute slash Algerian land and the settler who abuses her with repeated rapes and violence.’ One shouldn’t jump to quickly to denounce the novel or novelist as a blatant misogynist, or brush it off with an awkward neutralization assumption of cultural differences but take a look through a more deconstructionist vantage-point (one must also not make the Intentional Fallacy of presuming a character’s beliefs represent those of the author). Harun grew up under the stifling closeness and control of his mother, which led to a stunted emotional and sexual maturity and a love/hate relationship with his mother (the binaries both being another method collaboration by opposing and embodying the nature of Meursault). The sexually violent and degrading imagery of women is a repressed projection of Harun’s frustration forged in the relationship with his mother. As he felt disappointed, suffocated and betrayed by his mother, so too does he with his native land and the two associate and comment upon one another in his subconscious.

    * Harun insists he learned to speak French to better understand and assault his adversary, and The Meursault Investigation is originally written in French. Language becomes a brief but important theme flowing within the novel.

    I know your hero’s genius: the ability to tear open the common, everyday language and emerge on the other side, where a more devastating language is waiting to narrate the world in another way


    …more

    Cheryl

    “Mama’s still alive today.”
    If you read this book, then I urge you to do so on the heels of reading, or re-reading, The Stranger. Otherwise, it would be like overhearing only the one side of a telephone conversation — you can then only guess at the meaning and significance of what you hear. The brilliance of this is how he simultaneously submerges and intertwines his story with Camus’, as if that fiction was a real-life documentary, and at the same time stands outside the narration, conversing wi

    “I’m sure you’re like everyone else, you’ve read the tale as told by the man who wrote it. He writes so well that his words are like precious stones, jewels cut with the utmost precision. A man very strict about shades of meaning, your hero was; he practically required them to be mathematical. Endless calculations, based on gems and minerals. Have you seen the way he writes? He’s writing about a gunshot, and he makes it sound like poetry! His world is clean, clear, exact, honed by morning sunlight, enhanced with fragrances and horizons. The only shadow is cast by “the Arabs,” blurred, incongruous objects left over from “days gone by,” like ghosts, with no language except the sound of a flute”

    Harun is the younger brother of the nameless Arab murdered by Meursault in The Stranger.
    “I rejected the absurdity of his death, and I needed a story to give him a shroud.”

    Harun rescues the dead man from anonymity — his name is Musa. The grief suffered by him and Maman is profound and only deepens with time, rather than abating. His story meanders back and forth across time, across the Algerian War and Independence. Harun’s story becomes Meursault’s story, and Daoud uses the same threads as Camus to produce a canvas that is similar yet quite different.

    In an interview in the New Yorker, Daoud said, “I’m not responding to Camus — I’m finding my own path through Camus.”
    …more

    Deborah Markus

    The short review: Some good writing, but ultimately a letdown.

    The details: I got all excited when I read Musa, the snippet of Meursault that was excerpted in The New Yorker. Not only was it very well written, but I’d just reread The Stranger and this is a retelling of that story from the point of view of the brother of the man who was shot.

    I thought this book would be a lot like Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which is a brilliant retelling of Jane Eyre from the madwoman’s perspective. And the tw

    The details: I got all excited when I read Musa, the snippet of Meursault that was excerpted in The New Yorker. Not only was it very well written, but I’d just reread The Stranger and this is a retelling of that story from the point of view of the brother of the man who was shot.

    I thought this book would be a lot like Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which is a brilliant retelling of Jane Eyre from the madwoman’s perspective. And the two novels do have a lot in common. Both of them address Western xenophobia, colonialism, the fear of “the other,” and the significance of names.

    The one place where they differ is, to me, a weakness in Meursault. Rhys’ novel acts as if it’s a story being told in the same universe as Jane Eyre. Meursault goes one step further: the action takes place in a universe in which The Stranger is a nonfiction work.

    There are a lot of problems with this premise, at least the way Kamel Daoud handles it.

    In The Stranger, the murdered man is never named. Daoud’s narrator is incensed by this, and rightly so. Imagine: your brother is murdered, and the murderer cares so little about who he killed that he can’t even be bothered to learn his name. Worse: your brother is murdered for no particular reason by a descendant of the French colonizers of your native land, and thanks to the fact that this murderer is a good writer, your brother is now known only as “the Arab.”

    A man who knows how to write kills an Arab who, on the day he dies, doesn’t even have a name as if he’d hung it on a nail somewhere before stepping onto the stage.

    This is good writing, and fine so far as it goes. The problem is, Daoud takes it too far. The narrator’s brother isn’t just killed: his body disappears and his name is never mentioned by anyone, even in accounts of the murder trial. Then why was Meursault put on trial? If there’s no corpse and no name, who was he accused of killing? Maybe this works as symbolism, but Meursault is supposed to be the story of something that really happened, written by a grieving brother.

    That’s another problem with this novel: it can’t make up its mind what it is. Sometimes it’s grittily realistic. Sometimes it melts into metaphor.

    Oh, and the first half of this novel is so repetitious and so completely empty of plot or action that on page 71, I put a Post-It in to mark where I shouted, “Could something please HAPPEN, already?”

    Something does happen almost immediately after that. On page 75, to be exact. But by then it was too late, at least for me.

    A novel this short shouldn’t have time to get boring. This one managed to.

    Here’s how the first half of the book reads, in a nutshell:

    My brother is dead.
    He was murdered.
    He was murdered by a guy who wrote a famous book.
    So now everyone cares about the murderer instead of my brother.
    Who is dead.
    Because he was murdered.
    Specifically, by a guy who wrote a book about it.
    And now the book is famous and nobody cares about my brother.
    You know, the dead guy.
    Who was murdered.

    I wish I were exaggerating. There’s some lovely prose here, and some clever references to Camus and his work; but eventually that stops being enough to keep a tired reader going. (I did finish this book. I’m stubborn that way.)

    Daoud’s narrator also insists that the narrator of The Stranger was a sympathetic character:

    Everyone was knocked out by the perfect prose, by language capable of giving air facets like diamonds, and everyone declared their empathy with the murderer’s solitude and offered him their most learned condolences.

    I know plenty of people who have read Camus, and I don’t know a single person who thinks the narrator of The Stranger is anything but creepy. Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd.

    I read Meursault because I liked what I saw in Musa and I was hoping for more. Unfortunately, more of the same was all I got.

    Wide Sargasso Sea changed Jane Eyre for me profoundly. They’re both brilliant novels, and one of them now haunts the other in my mind.

    No such magic happened here.

    Meursault, like WSS, is not a book to read without reading its parent first. A reader should also bone up a bit on Algeria and its war for independence.

    But honestly, unless you’re very curious and/or a completest, I’d stick to reading the excerpt.
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