Magazine article Tablet Magazine

'The Meursault Investigation' and the Erasure of the Victim: Adam Kirsch Reviews Kemal Daoud

Magazine article Tablet Magazine

'The Meursault Investigation' and the Erasure of the Victim: Adam Kirsch Reviews Kemal Daoud

Article excerpt

"Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know." The first sentences of Albert Camus' The Stranger are one of the most famous opening gambits in literature, combining absolute plainness with a mysterious kind of threat. As it turns out, Meursault, the narrator of Camus' novel, has a perfectly good reason for not knowing exactly when his mother died: He has only just received a telegram from the nursing home, which didn't specify the time of her death. What is upsetting to the reader is not that he doesn't know, but that he clearly doesn't care. For Meursault, apathy is a kind of philosophical credo, a principled refusal to play the game of social obligation and expectation. It is a kind of mutilated virtue, a way of putting the principles of Camus' existentialism into action.

The message of the novel is that this kind of independenceua cousin, in its stubborn muteness, to that of Melville's Bartleby the Scriveneruis more deeply threatening to society than any conventional crime. …

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