The enduring power of Albert Camus' L'Étranger
Written by an outsider about an outsider, L'Étranger holds an irresistible fascination for all those who read it. The author, Albert Camus, came from an illiterate family in Algeria, a pied-noir, neither fully at home in either Algeria or France, or anywhere else for that matter. Meursault, the main character, is also alienated from his surroundings, and eventually kills an Arab without really understanding why. First published in 1942, the novel still speaks to us — witness how societies in the West and elsewhere are still grappling with what to do with "the other", as the rise in both Islamic violence and Islamophobia would attest.
The enduring appeal of the book is as personal as it is political.
Andrew Hussey is a journalist and professor of French at the University of London Institute, Paris. His documentary about Camus is called: Inside the Outsider.
Also heard in the program:
- Kamel Daoud is the author of Meursault, contre-enquête, based on Camus' L'Étranger, but in Kamel's version, the Arab killed by Meursault is given a name, "Musa".
- Marcelle Mahasella oversees the Camus archives at the Méjanes Library in Aix-en-Provence.
- Robert Zaretsky teaches French history at the University of Houston, Texas. He's written two books about Camus: Camus: Elements of a Life and A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning.
- Roger Grenier (d. November 2017) was a writer, journalist and friend of Camus, who'd hired him after the war to work at Combat, the underground newspaper of the French Resistance.
**This episode was produced by Danny Braun.