Book Review: The Mersault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

Those of you who have never read Camus’ The Stranger, go read that now. Those of you who have already done that, consider reading this book.

It’s a post-colonial tale of what happened in The Stranger, with the senseless murder of an Arab (“because the sun’s light was too bright”) operating at its fulcrum. That Arab, unnamed and of little consequence in the Camus beyond being a plot device, is the protagonist’s older brother here.

The book opens with an old man narrating his story to a journalist at a bar. He tells of his brother’s murder, how his mother and he dealt with it, what they did when they found out the murderer was a celebrity (in this universe, The Stranger was published as a work of nonfiction), and how the investigation never offers them any relief. There is a loose plot, which creeps dangerously close to the story of The Stranger, but for the most part it reads as a rant. For anyone who’s read any Antonio Lobo-Antunes, the same caustic anger can be found throughout here. But not the wild, Faulknerian prose. Although this book has a bit more poeticism to it than Camus, this book is told in language simple enough to be reminiscent of Camus’ writing.

This set up could get old very quickly, but luckily Daoud wrote a book that also mirrors The Stanger in terms of length: it clocked in at about 150 pages with large print in my copy.

While I don’t think it’s likely this will go on to be the world classic The Stranger is, it is definitely a must read for fans of Camus and those interested in post colonialism. Highly recommended.

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