It has been a long time coming, but now that a sequel to Albert Camus’ classic L’Etranger (The Stranger) has arrived, we wonder why it didn’t happen sooner. The French writer’s existentialist classic about the absurdity of life was first published in 1942 and is still widely read and loved (particularly by men, if you are to believe the reader surveys). The novel is set in Algeria when it was still a French colony.
The nihilistic protagonist, Meursault, shocks through his indifference. L’Etranger famously opens with his emotionless reaction to the death of his own mother. The story reaches a climax when Meursault kills an Arab on the beach, for seemingly no reason at all. No argument precedes the killing, so it gives Camus a device for exploring the absurd psychology of the protagonist and anti-hero.
Now Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud has written a sequel from the point of view of the brother of the Arab who was killed. This is what makes The Meursault Investigation so different to L’Etranger, in which not a single Arab voice is heard and the murdered Arab is never given a name.
Harun has lived since childhood in the shadow of the memory of his sibling and refuses to let him remain anonymous any longer. He ruminates on his murder in a bar in Oman: “I mean, it goes back more than half a century. It happened, and everyone talked about it. People still do, but they mention only one dead man, they feel no compunction about doing that, even though there were two of them, two dead men. Yes, two. Why does the other one get left out?”
To find out, we will have to read on.