Harun thinks that love is “inexplicable.” He’s always puzzled by the way couples touch each other constantly, until they blur the edges between them. He doesn’t understand how they manage to forget that that they were born and will die separately. To Harun, love seems to be an “accommodation” to the harshness of life, rather than a “mystery.” For him, death causes the same impressions that love causes in others—“sensation that every life is precarious and absolute.” Actually, he says, he’s very scared of love and its ability to “devour” people.
Here, Harun is describing love in the same way that he often talks about religion—something essentially false that humanity has contrived in order to gloss over complicated and unpleasant aspects of life. However, later he will reverse his position and say that love is one of the inherently meaningful experiences of life, casting it in opposition to religion.
Harun returns to the subject of Meriem, and their brief affair in 1963. He loved to look up from his depression and see her smiling at him. She made him feel that he could have had a peaceful life on a small piece of land somewhere, if only “Musa, Mama, and your hero” (Meursault) hadn’t already killed him.
Harun still remembers how beautiful Meriem was, especially her smile and her hair. However, even when he was with her, he felt that he could never possess her, as a “stranger” like him “possesses nothing.”
Calling himself a “stranger,” Harun links himself to Meursault and his novel, whose title (The Stranger) refers to himself.
Harun tells the interlocutor to look around the city, which contains everything from Ottoman walls to colonial buildings to offices and roads built after Independence. Outside the city, Harun imagines, lies a “purgatory” inhabited by everyone who has died for Algeria or because of it. Harun asks the interlocutor if the “bottle ghost” is refusing to answer him. He says there’s a precise formula that can elicit a response, but he doesn’t know it yet.
Harun is becoming increasingly determined to interact with the ghost. This seems like a last attempt to induce people besides the interlocutor to listen to his story. It’s also possible that, since the ghost has heard the secret of Harun’s murder, Harun wants to see if the other man will judge or forgive him.