I hesitated a lot before reading this book. I had been a reader of Kamel Daoud‘s chronicles (without quite agreeing with their content) before I stopped a few years ago as he grew gloomier than ever. But I checked them again a few times during the last presidential elections and I liked what I read. This added to the fact that I felt Camus‘s The Stranger needed an answer if not a sequel convinced me to make the move.
I read The Stranger many years ago and, like many, felt a void left by the missing details on the Arab man killed by Meursault. This void combined to Camus’s statements/stance during the Algerian war of independence led to the many polemics around Camus and his belonging (or not) to Algeria.
The story is told by the Arab man’s brother, Haroun. He seems to spend all his evenings drinking in a bar and, during fifteen nights corresponding to the book’s fifteen chapters, he tells his brother’s, his mother’s and his own story to some university researcher who wanted to know more about Meursault’s Arab victim. I think the man deserves that I tell you his name, Moussa.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book. Perhaps I thought we’d get Moussa’s version on the murder or, at least, have a glimpse at Moussa’s life before he was killed. Instead, as Moussa’s dead, we only have his brother’s story with the most part of it relating what happened after Moussa’s murder.
And Haroun has a lot to say, he talks and talks and talks; and many times I was like please make this chapter end and let me get some rest. But I understand the man, his brother’s death changed his life and let’s admit it, turned it into hell. The murder seems to have driven his mother nuts and she almost drove Haroun crazy.
Daoud draws parallels between Meursault and his mother and Haroun and his mother. The counter investigation is almost as absurd as the murder itself. Daoud’s caustic style is present with some nice sentences. At occasions, I felt like I was reading one of his chronicles on Le Quotidien d’Oran.
One last point, an unfortunate one in my opinion, is that Kamel Daoud couldn’t help but use a few
lines pages to take us back to his “ideology”. Unsurprisingly, I must admit, he felt he had to speak of bars being closed in Algeria and about Islam, religiosity, prayers, etc. It was completely out of context and useless to the story in my opinion but you do not expect a drunkard (Haroun) to make sense, do you?
Title: Meursault, contre-enquete
Publisher: Barzakh, 2013