The Collaboration of Kamel Daoud

This essay is a draft of a work in progress concerning postcolonial rewriting


The notion of the rewriting or retelling of established works of fiction within the canon suggests, particularly in a postcolonial context, not merely critique but a dialectical approach to critique. In other words, it is not merely a pointing out of the deficiencies of the canonical work but an attempt, in so doing, to move the canon beyond its limitations. As Edward Said has suggested, the dialectical approach is a ‘writing back to the metropolitan cultures, disrupting the European narratives of the Orient and Africa, replacing them with either a more playful or a more powerful new narrative style.’ (1993, 216) This method, as Lia Brozgal points out in her discussion of Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation – a ‘rewrite’ of Albert Camus’s The Outsider – could either be ‘coded as an act of liberation (as ‘writing back’) or as a demonstration of postcolonial culture’s inherent subordination to the dominant matrix.’(2016, 38)

As such the ‘postcolonial remake’ mirrors the two potential outcomes of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic as described in his Phenomenology of Spirit. That is to say that the rewrite could result in a situation where either ‘the thesis of Master and the antithesis of Slavery are dialectically ‘overcome’” (2008, 81) or it could linger in a state where ‘the master recognizes selfhood and freedom only in himself, not in the slave, while the slave recognizes [selfhood and freedom] only in the master but not in himself.’ (1946, 184)  Within the bounds of the literary ‘rewrite’ this suggests two outcomes.  One, as Said intimates, a more powerful narrative could be created.  But contrariwise the ‘writing back’, with its use of the theoretical and aesthetic frameworks established by, amongst others, Aristotle, Cervantes, Hegel, Marx, Conrad, Camus, and Freud, may only serve to ‘recognize’ the European ‘master’. In so doing the ‘write back’ may merely identify the Western Canon as the master while at the same time leaving itself in a state of literary servitude.

Kamel Daoud is not oblivious to the potential perils and possibilities of an antithetical rewrite of a canonical ‘master’.  To be sure the idea of dialectic is one of the central concerns of The Meursault Investigation. This should come as no surprise considering the heavy presence of Albert Camus within Daoud’s first novel.  Camus, after all, in his most famous philosophical work, The Rebel, argued against what he considered to be the mistaken dialectical systems of both Hegel and Marx; dialectical ideas that were at the centre of the thinking of Camus’s contemporaries Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and, perhaps most importantly considering the Daoud’s focus, Frantz Fanon.

To date most reviewers and academics have studiously unpacked the thematic, structural and formal relationships Daoud’s metafictional novel have with Camus’s fictional oeuvre. However, as I will argue, it is Camus’s critique of dialectical synthesis where Daoud has a more interesting affiliation. But this is jumping the gun.  And it is to the guns of both Meursault and Daoud’s narrator, Harun, that we must return if we are to understand what might seem, at first, to be a contentious conclusion.

Daoud’s first novel does not simply work on the basis of an appropriation or adaption of Camus’s fictional world. Instead he takes the position of its postcolonial critique, made famous by Conor Cruise O’Brien and later adopted, in part, by Edward Said. And it is O’Brien’s well-known paragraph which is particularly apposite when considering Daoud’s novel because, like O’Brien, Daoud seems to not only point a postcolonial finger at the text of The Outsider but does so at the author himself.  As O’Brien stated:

Everyone – Meursault himself, the court and the author – treats the actual killing and the sordid transactions which prepare the way for it as irrelevant.  But it is not easy to make the killing of a man seem irrelevant; in fact it can hardly be done unless one is led in some way to regard the man as not quite a man. And this is what happens.  The Europeans in the book have names  – Meursault, Raymond Sintes, Marie, Salamano and other minor characters[1].  The man who was shot has no name and, his relation to the narrator and his friends is not that of one human being to another. He looks at them as if they were ‘blocks of stone or dead trees’.  When the narrator shoots down this blank and alien being and fires ‘four shots are more into the inert body, on which they left no visible trace’, the reader does not quite feel that Meursault has killed the man. He has killed an Arab (1970, 25)

This well-known antithetical critique is the springboard from which Daoud’s novel launches. That is to say it takes its premise from O’Brien’s conflation of Meursault, a fictional construct, with the author Albert Camus and then addresses the political implications that arise from this coalescence[2]. With this in place Daoud’s fiction is nominally based on O’Brien’s inference that Camus consciously produced a mimetic or realist account of colonial Algeria, where the absence of the murdered Arab’s name confirms the colonial subjects’ status as inferior, barely human and fungible.  It is from here that Daoud begins his ludic metafictional play which, as I will suggest, goes some way to undermining O’Brien and, in some senses, Camus as well.

In order to sustain O’Brien’s confusion between author and narrator in the Algerian edition of The Meursault Investigation Daoud refers to a character called ‘Albert Meursault’ – a man who is both murderer and writer. This was sadly deleted in later French and English editions due to a disagreement with Camus’s executors.  However, the omission of the Christian name in the English text does not entirely rid the book of this conceit and Albert Meursault remains the character of Daoud’s focus, if not entirely in name then at least in concept. Daoud follows this up by naming the unnamed Arab. ‘Who knows Musa’s name?’ Harun, the narrator, asks and then answers. ‘He was my brother. That is what I am getting at. I want to tell you the story Musa was never able to tell.’ (2015, 4)

So it is through the adoption and appropriation of not only Camus’s work but O’Brien’s ‘antithetical’ postcolonial criticisms of Camus that Daoud’s novel comes into being.  In other words, Daoud consciously sets up the notion of dialectic from the novel’s inception. This point is brought home with the very first words: ‘Mama’s is still alive today’ – a line which appropriates and twists the canonical ‘master narrative’ or ‘thesis’ of Camus’s The Outsider, which begins with its famous: ‘Mama died today’.

But Daoud goes much further than simply usurping the story and the criticism of Camus’s most famous work. Instead he uses all of Camus’s fictional oeuvre as a literary quarry, taking the building blocks he needs to construct his response and then adapting them into their supposed antithesis.  As Harun states, not without a sense of irony, he is going to do what was done in Algeria after Independence:

I am going to take the stones from the old houses that the colonist left behind remove them one by one and build my own house, my own language. (2015, 2)

In this pursuit he ‘lifts’ the novel’s form of the one-sided monologue from Camus’s The Fall and adopts the style of its mordant barfly, Jean-Baptiste Clamence. But instead of setting it in Amsterdam, or in the Algiers of The Outsider, Daoud places the narrative in Algerian Oran, a nod to the rat-infested location of The Plague. But here the reference  is undercut midway through the novel when the narrator says that it is a place ‘I love…despite the rats’(2015, 40).  Furthermore, Daoud’s narrator, like Jean-Baptiste, is named after a prophet, this time not from the Bible but the Koran. Harun’s brother Musa (Moses) is the very contradiction of the introverted and godless Meursault –  he is gregarious and bears a tattoo which states ‘God is my support’. As Brozgal points out, however, their names bear a phonetic similarity in French.

The naming of his Arab characters, which is after all central to the novel, is again part of Daoud’s metafictional play: Harun in the Koran is, after all, the brother of Musa (Moses) and Meriem. Meriem, as we discover, is the name of a woman who will appear later in the novel, not as their sister but rather as Harun’s educated girlfriend ­– the binary opposite of ‘girl Friday’ Marie who is Meursault’s lover.  Although several critics have missed the important appropriations from the Koran these further establish the master/slave dialectic suggested by Camus/Daoud, western literature/‘marginal rewrite’, Colonial/Postcolonial, France/Algeria, Amsterdam/Oran, Christian/Muslim, Meursault/Musa, Jean-Baptiste/Harun, Marie/Meriem.


The dialectical opposition is clear but is made clearer still as Daoud turns the colonial world of Camus’s The Outsider on its head replacing it with one seemingly influenced by the ideas of Frantz Fanon.  As Jeffery C. Isaac points out ‘Fanon is a kind of interlocutor in the novel’ (2016a, 149) and Harun’s narration produces one sated with Fanon’s notion that: ‘[a]s far as the native is concerned morality is very concrete; it is to silence the settler’s defiance, to break his flaunting violence – in a word to put him out of the picture.’ (2001, 34)  The groups of silent Arabs in Camus’s work are replaced by the silent colonials or roumis.  ‘[W]e were the ghosts,’ Harun states and goes on to say, ‘And today? It is just the opposite!’ (2015, 11) He further describes the ex-colonial who return to independent Algeria to see what they once had as: ‘mute spectres, they watch us – us Arabs – in silence’. (2015, 11) In another incident Harun’s mother, having discovered what she thinks is the house of Albert Meursault’s relatives, is said to have screamed a list of curses in the direction of a woman who she believes to be his relative (2015, 44).  The woman is incapable of responding, muted (much like Camus’s real mother whose deafness rendered her mute) the woman simply collapses before the tirade. As they leave Harun hears in the streets only the Arabic word for ‘police’, the colonial French language is removed – this is despite the fact that they are in the poor pied-noir district of Belcourt.  Furthermore, on encountering the Frenchman that Harun later kills, Harun claims that the sun was ‘big’, heavy’ and ‘blinding’ rendering his colonial victim silent and almost unidentifiable amidst a group of pied-noirs who are seeking the protection of Algerian officials close to the end of the Algerian War of Independence. (2015, 82)

Other references to Fanon’s ideas concerning colonial life haunt the text. When Harun admits that he and his friends, before independence, used to point out to each other which houses of the French colonials they would appropriate after the revolution (2015, 60), it is not surprising to find that Fanon claimed that, ‘no native does not dream at least once a day of setting himself up in the settler’s place’ (2015, 30). But it is Fanon’s notion of the psychological trauma of the colonial subject who ‘become[s] abnormal on the slightest contact with the white world’ (2008a, 143) that is most apparent in the first section of the novel.

From the opening chapter the idea is sustained that Musa’s murder is the incarnation of Fanon’s ‘contact’:

We will just look at all the other Musas in this dive one by one and imagine – as I often do – how they would have survived a shot fired in the bright sunlight (2015, )

And then later:

Musa was an Arab replaceable by a thousand others of his kind (2015,48)

It is this colonial ‘contact’, that is to say the killing of Musa where Musa is a ‘native everyman’, that has led both Harun and his mother to live deeply psychologically traumatised lives. ‘So I had a ghost’s childhood.’ (2015, 46) Harun admits. And his mother, after finding a job as a housekeeper in Hadjout (the town previously known as Marengo where Meursault’s mother lived in an old age home), spends her time there waiting ‘with me perched on her back, for Independence.’ In Hadjout Harun finds that his status is locked in what Fanon referred to as ‘thinghood’ and amongst the community he is simply recognised as ‘the dead man’s brother’. As Harun goes on to say he was ‘an object’ to his mother, ‘not her son.’ (2015, 39)

Harun’s memories of his childhood are ‘fragmented’ and slowly his mother affirms his status of ‘not being’ by making him a ‘reincarnation’ of Musa, forcing him to wear Musa’s old clothes – this affirms the sense of doubling that exists throughout the book and is a point I will come back to. Harun as such finds himself in what Fanon referred to as a state of comparaison, a position of inferiority which does not allow him to even recognise the ‘colonial master’ but instead to constantly compare himself to ‘his fellow Antillean against the pattern of the white man’(2008a, 215).

The colonial ‘contact’ of the killing of Musa has crushed any awareness of personhood in both Harun and his mother.  They are completely without agency, without any sense of liberty either personal or political. The only two processes that can seemingly bring any meaning to this void are the newspaper article, which recounts that murder of Musa by Meursault, and the return of Musa’s body. The article, written in French which Harun’s mother cannot read and which she forces Harun to read repeatedly, only increases a sense of Otherness and their status ‘as not quite human’. No new reading of the article will reveal to them either status or redemption because, like ‘Albert Meursault’s’ book, it is written in an alien language and it fails to name Musa. The search for Musa’s body too offers only emptiness and silence.  The only escape from this status is to learn another language.  As Harun admits, in the first half of the book, he can only ‘survive’ through the fraught acts of assimilation which Fanon warned would only be met with rejection.

Harun and his mother’s sense of suffocation seems to comes to an end, however, when Harun is woken in the middle of the night by a Frenchman, Joseph Larquais, seeking shelter in the house that they have appropriated from their colonial ‘masters’ at the time of independence.  Harun knows that he can walk away and that this man is no threat but: ‘Mama was there, forbidding any attempt of mine to dodge away, and demanding what she couldn’t obtain with her own hands: revenge.’ (2015, 84) Harun fires twice, hitting the Frenchman once in the belly and once in the neck, killing him instantly.

It is at this point that the references to Fanon and his notion of Hegelian synthesis or overcoming are established.  From the moment the bullets enter Joseph’s body the changes in both his mother and Harun are immediate. Ever since Musa’s death Harun’s mother is said to have been hardly able to breathe, however straight after the murder Harun notices that her breathing had ‘calmed down and suddenly became soft.’ (2015, 76) The moon outside, bright and full (as opposed to the sun in Meursault’s eyes), seems to ‘soothe the earth’ and Harun describes his emotions as if a cathartic act has altered them:

Basically I felt relieved, unburdened, free in my own body…Like a flash ­– a shot! – I had a sense of immense space, I grew dizzy at the possibility of my own freedom… It was as if perspectives were opening up and I could finally breathe. Whereas I’d always lived like a prisoner until then, confined within the perimeter established by Musa’s death and my mother’s vigilance, I now saw myself standing up right, at the heart of a vast territory.’ (2015, 77)

This sense of ‘overcoming’ through an act of violence mirrors Fanon’s revolutionary dialectical claims, in line with his reading of Hegel. Fanon argued that the opposition between colonial master and colonialized slave could only be overcome in a fight to the death where the ‘native’ goes ‘[o]ne step more, and…is ready to fight to be more than the settler.’ (2001, 35) Fanon agrees with Hegel’s assertion that it is only through the death of the master that freedom can be realised.  And this can only be achieved by ‘“dialectical” or better, revolutionary, overcoming of the World that can free him.’ [3] (1969, 29) Like Kojeve’s interpretation of Hegel quoted here, Fanon states that the settler (master) must be killed in an act of liberation for there is no place for ‘twofold citizenship’ (2001, 35). No place for the ‘skilful reformer’ or ‘the colonial of good will’ can remain, ‘for the revolutionary transformation of the world presupposes the “negation”’. (1969, 29)[4]

As Sartre states in his Preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth:

For the first days of revolt you must kill: to shoot down the European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy the oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remain a dead man and a freeman; the survivor, for the first time he feels a national soil under his foot…. A child of violence, at every moment he draws from it his humanity. We were men at his expense, he makes himself a man at ours: a different man, of higher quality.’ (2001, 19 & 20)

So with the killing of Joseph[5] Harun seems to have fulfilled Fanon’s revolutionary synthesis. Through the act of killing the master, Harun has liberated himself. Or so it would seem.

But Daoud’s text offers no such easy liberating sublation. There is no overcoming, only a replacement or duplication.  This of course is what has already been suggested at the start of the novel when Huran states obliquely that ‘the roles [after Independence were] reversed’(2015, 10). After the murder he is troubled with both a sense of ‘vertigo’ as well as a sense of megalomania – which is often noted to follow revolutions.  As he says to his silent and nameless western interlocutor:

The Other is a unit of measurement you lose when you kill. Afterwards I felt an incredible, almost divine giddiness at the thought of somehow resolving everything – at least in my daydreams – by committing murder.  The list of my victims was long. I’d start with one of our neighbours, a self-proclaimed “veteran mujahid”… (2015, 90)

Daoud here brings into question the notion of ‘the revolutionary’ and compares them with that of the simple murderer who kills for self-interest or to become master.  The ‘veteran mujahid’ is certainly not the settler (master) Fanon had in mind and Harun’s dreams are not motivated by revolution.  Certainly Harun’s status is not clear. He is not, after all, an FLN revolutionary and his killing of Joseph in fact takes place exactly two hours after Algeria has gained Independence on 5 July 1962[6]. The question of status is muddled and the revolutionary abstraction is muddied. Was Harun’s act an act within the ‘War of Liberation’ where as Fanon stated ‘every Frenchman currently in Algeria is an enemy combatant’? Or was it simply murder? Can there really be any well-defined differentiation?  Is Harun’s killing of Joseph within the auspices of revolution? Would the likes of Fanon, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, who legitimised political violence in the name of synthesis, condemn or praise this action? The answer is not clear.

As such Daoud seems at least partly to question the motivations behind the notion of the violence that was to bring revolutionary dialectical synthesis as well as questioning just what license the likes of Fanon and Sartre were giving colonial subjects with claims like ‘violence, like Achilles’s lance, can heal the wounds that it has inflicted.’ (2001, 25) As John Foley points out (2008), in his work on Camus, both Sartre and Fanon’s limits on political violence were almost grotesquely unclear.  This was in stark contrast to Camus who in works like The Just Assassins and The Rebel was at pains to try and outline the limitations of its justified use while at the same time warning that revolutionary synthesis would never be its consequence.


Possibly with the above in mind, after the murder, Harun’s narrative begins to mirror more directly that of The Outsider and moves away from ideas of a divided and antithetical world – the postcolonial begins to look more like a simple reversal or duplication of the colonial.  Some days after the shooting Harun, like Meursault, is arrested. At first, much like in Meursault’s case, the officials are said to be uninterested. Later when a Frenchman in the same holding cell asks Harun what crime he has committed, Harun replies that he killed a Frenchman and this, like the almost identical incident in The Outsider, is followed with silence.  Although Harun is let off, largely due to his mother’s pleading with the officials, he nevertheless draws ever closer to a duplication of Meursault. Even Meriem, who enters Harun’s life bringing Albert Meursault’s novel, bears a strange biographical similarity to Camus. Meriem is, after all, bookish, she studies at the University of Algiers and is from Constantine, the city nearest to Camus’s birth place.  On reading the work of Albert Meursault that Meriem gives to him, Harun states that: ‘I felt insulted and revealed to myself…and what I found there was my own reflection, I discovered that I was practically the murder’s double.’ (2015, 131)

This claim, that Harun is the facsimile rather then the antithesis of Meursault, becomes more pronounced with the description of Harun’s distinct distaste for organized religion. And the final scene of The Meursault Investigation is almost identical with The Outsider’s: ‘a priest visited [Meursault] in his cell; in my case, there’s a whole pack of religious fanatics hounding me trying to convince me that the stones of the country don’t only sweat with suffering and that God is watching over us.’  Like Meursault Harun grabs the cleric who comes to offer him the message of God and, like Meursault, Harun rejects him stating that his vision of salvation is the ‘face burning with desire’ of the woman that was his girlfriend Meriem/Marie.

The novel ends with a claim that hardly seems fathomable at the beginning. In the final words to the unnamed western listener Harun asks him if he knows what the word ‘Meursault’ or El-Merssoul means in Arabic. The answer is ‘the messenger’.  With this acknowledgement that Albert Meursault is both prophet and foe the notion of dialectical synthesis is destroyed.  There is no sense that  the master and slave relationship has been sublated or synthesised.  As Camus himself argued in The Myth of Sisyphus the conflict between identities will never be overcome. Along these lines Daoud seems to suggest that ‘Camus the colonial’ and ‘Camus the messenger’ will always remain, the synthesis of the colonial and postcolonial worlds is seemingly impossible in that they remain both different and at times identical.


Like Camus, Daoud is aware of the ‘limits’ and contingencies contained within both the thesis and antithesis of the dialectic which render sublation impossible.  As John Foley argues in his Albert Camus: From the Absurd to Revolt Camus suggests in his notion of the Absurd that there is no absolute, no infinite hope and no infinite despair. There can be no ‘overcoming’, Camus argued, due to the limits of the human condition, what Isaiah Berlin termed the ‘incommensurability of values’.  While in Camus’s notion of Revolt, rather than dialectical synthesis, there is simply the self-conscious recognition that ‘we are in this together’[7].  That is to say that in an Absurd world we are both different while at the same time duplicated – we have roughly the same set of needs.  This idea of duplication, of doubling, in the face of differentiation is woven everywhere within Daoud’s work, and is perhaps most usefully understood in the conceit contained in Camus’s first book of essays L’envers et L’endroit. This expression contains the idea of the right side and the wrong side of a piece of material, the two are ‘binary duplicates’, contingent, different and inseparable.

To be sure Daoud is seemingly most interested in the notion of duplication with regards the colonial and the postcolonial. That, in a sense, the postcolonial world is a distorted ‘rewrite’ of the colonial.  At the centre of this duplication is not only Harun’s replication of Meursault but the colonial and postcolonial use of the word, ‘Arab’. ‘Arab,’ Harun says before his recounting of the killing of Joseph, ‘I never felt Arab you know. Arab is like Negro-ness, which only exists in the white man’s eyes. In our neighbourhood, in our world, we were Muslims, we had given names, faces and habits. Period.’ (2015, 60)

But this European metonymy is again ‘duplicated’ in the postcolonial world in its call for ‘Arab nationalism’.  And Harun states near the end:

In the scuffle, nobody wondered what Musa’s nationality was.  He is referred to as an Arab, even by Arabs. Tell me, is that a nationality, “Arab”?  And where is this country everybody claims to carry in their hearts their vitals but which doesn’t exist anywhere? (2015, 138)

As Adam Shatz, who has interviewed Daoud on several occasions, says of the author, he ‘consider[s] himself an Algerian, not an Arab — a view that’s not uncommon in Algeria, but that is opposed by Arab nationalists. He said that he spoke a distinct language called “Algerian,” not Arabic’ (17 Mar. 2016).

Again it would seem that the notion of Camus ‘the messenger’ is present.  Camus, after all, repeatedly spoke out about his concerns with regards to Arab Nationalism which he felt might herald a new imperial dawn which be the enemy of cultural pluralism.  Camus’s solution was that a ‘middle’ or ‘third’ way could be found between the polarized discourses of Arab Nationalist and French Colonialism, which would recognize the interests of Arabs, Berbers and Europeans alike. This notion of ‘plurality’ and ‘limits’ is in fact not far away from an idea that is the undercurrent of Daoud’s novel.  This is to say that the reading of the novel as an exploration of a clash between colonial and postcolonial worlds, with Camus’s texts and ideas as its main focus, is only half of the story.

Perhaps The Meursault Investigation’s most important feature, as we have been discussing above, is that its source is not just Camus but rather includes: the Koran, Sartre, Fanon, O’Brien, Hegel, Said and postcolonial theory in general.  In fact the appropriations within the novel go much further, it is a tissue of other texts. As Brozgal points out there is the intertextual ‘wink’ at Robinson Crusoe when Harun’s says he will call Musa 2 p.m., like Friday named by Crusoe. There is also reference made to The Thousand and One Nights which is famous for its use of the unreliable narrator, which Harun is a perfect example of, in particular in a tale called ‘The Seven Viziers’ which is based on the Koranic story of Joseph. And perhaps most interestingly Daoud’s constant confusion within the novel of the fictional world of Meursault and the real world of Albert Camus suggests something of Don Quixote. There is a more explicit reference to Don Quixote, who mistook windmills for giants, when Harun’s mother is said to have told him stories of Musa. ‘Unlikely things, tales of hand-to-hand combat between Musa, the invisible giant and the gaouri, the roumi’. (2015, 15) This allusion becomes more significant when one considers, according to Cervantes’s metafictional claim, that Don Quixote was originally written in Arabic.

Like in Coetzee’s Foe, Daoud in his own rewrite raises the reader’s awareness through his metafiction and its appropriations that he is writing within what might be termed a ‘modern or postmodern tradition’. It is an approach which Stephen Watson has said of Coetzee’s work that ‘restore[s] the inert, empirical world to the transfiguration of myth.’(1990, 37)  In this practice Daoud is tacitly asserting several ideas. One is that it suggests that The Meursault Investigation, as well as Camus’s work, cannot simply be read as a piece of political realism[8]. Secondly that he is in a sense a ‘slave’ of the dominant literary matrix but thirdly that the matrix is not simply a western one.  Instead The Meursault Investigation is a palimpsest of what R.G. Collingwood refers to as ‘collaborative’ processes.  As Collingwood argued in his The Principles of Art (1938) the appropriation in the rerendering of Sappho by Catullus and the source of Shakespeare’s oeuvre in the works of Kyd and Marlow are all fundamental elements to all literary and artistic practices.

Daoud by appropriating the names of his characters from the Koran (which are themselves replicated in different forms in both the Torah and the Bible), along with all his other metafictional play, points to this notion of collaboration. In doing so he goes some way to denying that he and other postcolonial writers are dominated by a purely ‘western’ matrix but rather they are involved in a matrix that has within it cross-cultural and pluralistic collaborative underpinnings. The idea that there is a ‘Western Canon’ and a ‘marginal response’ which seeks a liberating synthesis is, as both Camus and Daoud would seem to agree, a false dialectical notion. There are limits, contingencies and collaborations within literature that refuse this view.  Just as no act of violence or ‘writing back’ will destroy established identities and free themselves, no literary identity is pure and without influence.  As Edward Said argued, much inline with this idea, the refusal of cultural influence is impossible and although ‘the whole of a culture is a distinct one, many important sectors of it can be apprehended as working contrapuntally together. (1993, 194) The ‘rewrite’ is instead closer to Seamus Heaney’s notion of literary redress. That is, it is not a correction or rectification nor is it a slave to a dominating matrix but rather it is closer to the notion of redress as used in the nomenclature of hunting.  That is to say it is like the calling back of the hounds in order that they may find ‘the proper course’.



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Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Grove Press, 2008a. Print.

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[1] This, like much in O’Brien’s book, is not entirely true in that many of the Europeans do not have names as well see Foley’s Albert Camus: From the Absurd to Revolt.

[2] This conflation of author and protagonist was first observed by Henri Krea who stated that, as quoted in O’Brien, Meursault’s act is ‘the subconscious realization of the obscure and puerile dream of the “poor white” Camus never ceased to be.’ (1970, 25) Pierre Nora in his Les Francais d’Algerie argued much inline with this, suggesting that all pied-noirs have a genocidal desire to murder their native populations.  As David Carroll states: ‘Nora claims that Camus’s “genius” in The Stranger is to have succeeded in revealing what Nora rediscovered almost two decades later: the hidden desires [to murder the Arab population] of an entire pied-noir community, of all French Algerians without exception. Camus is treated in this way as a kind of ‘native informer’”. (2007, 24)

[3] Here I am using Kojeve’s lectures on Hegel for two reasons. One because as Foley argues Kojeve’s were by far the most pervasive interpretation of Hegel in France at the time and secondly it avoids some of Hegel’s obscure terminology which would require a much longer explanation.

[4] It should be noted that as both Camus and various others have said there could be various interpretations of what this ‘negation’ could entail.

[5] The naming of the character Joseph could related to the famous quote by Camus that Meursault ‘was the only Christ that we deserve’

[6] A massacre of Europeans took place in Oran between the 5-7 July.

[7] See Robert Solomon’s ‘Facing Death Together’

[8] Although certainly Daoud’s allusion to actual facts like the Massacre in Oran between the 5-7 July 1962 would certainly allow the critic to read it in part as a piece of mimetic realism. This reading would, as I have stated elsewhere, be far easier than say the realist reading of The Outsider itself considering both its influences (Kafka, Faulkner, & Gide) and it lack of a ‘identifiable’ political reality.  Although of course the like of O’Brien would argue otherwise stating the colonialism was exactly this.


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