The Meursault Investigation


Kamel Daoud

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The Meursault Investigation Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Kamel Daoud

Kamel Daoud was born in the northwest Algerian port city of Mostaganem, the oldest of six children in an Algerian Muslim family. Daoud spoke Arabic as a child but eventually studied French literature at the University of Oran. He currently lives in Oran, where he edits and contributes to the French-language daily newspaper Le quotidien d’Oran. Daoud is divorced and has two children. The Meursault Investigation is his first novel.
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Historical Context of The Meursault Investigation

After a violent French invasion, Algeria became a French colony in 1830; due to “scorched earth” tactics used to eliminate local power structures and resistance to French rule, between 500,000 and one million Algerians (out of an initial population of three million) died in the first three decades of French rule. Between 1954 and 1962, the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) fought a guerilla war against the French regime; although both sides committed atrocities during the war, French use of torture and violent tactics harmed its reputation abroad and generated international support for Algerian independence, which was eventually guaranteed by the Évian Accords in 1962. After the war ended, the FLN quickly proved hostile to political opposition and eventually banned other parties in order to consolidate its own power. Algeria remained a stable country until the 1990s, when a civil war broke out between the government and various Islamist factions. Journalist and historians have noted that these rebel groups mimicked the ruthless and brutal tactics originally developed by the FLN to defeat the French.

Other Books Related to The Meursault Investigation

The Meursault Investigation is a response to Albert Camus’s 1942 novel The Stranger. Many of the novel’s key elements—such as Harun’s ambivalent relationship with his mother and his confrontation with an imam at the end of the novel—mirror similar elements in The Stranger. Daoud explores and sometimes agrees with Camus’ preoccupation with “the Absurd,” which is the fundamental conflict between human desire to find meaning in life and the ultimate inability to find such meaning in a random universe. Absurdism developed from the European existentialist movement, of which Camus was an important member. Camus explores the philosophical ideas which play a large part in both novels in his philosophical treatise, The Myth of Sisyphus. At the same time, Daoud protests Camus’s indifference to the racist colonial structures that form the foundation of his novel. For an in-depth discussion of the ways in which Western colonial regimes have promoted narratives of political and cultural superiority to Middle-Eastern and North African societies, readers should consult Edward Said’s path-breaking book Orientalism, one of the foundational works of postcolonial scholarship.
Key Facts about The Meursault Investigation
  • Full Title: The Meursault Investigation
  • When Written: 2010s
  • Where Written: Algeria
  • When Published: 2013
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Postcolonial
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Setting: Algiers between the 1940s and 1960s
  • Climax: Harun murders Joseph, a Frenchman, to avenge the death of his brother, Musa.
  • Antagonist: Meursault
  • Point of View: First-person limited

Extra Credit for The Meursault Investigation

Dangerous Work. Daoud has received death threats due to his public criticism of Islamic fundamentalism through his journalism and novel. As a result, he rarely makes public appearances.

Popularity. In the year after its publication, The Meursault Investigation won three literary awards in France, including the prestigious Goncourt Prize.