The next time Harun meets the interlocutor, he praises the man’s patience in staying to hear the story. However, Harun warns that the story won’t “suit your quest for purity”—if he wants to lead a better life, he should find a woman and stop chasing Musa.
Here, Harun is being sarcastic—as he will later state, he believes women to be not pure but inherently untrustworthy, certainly not a good substitute for his quest for truth and justice.
Harun orders some wine and remarks that it’s becoming harder for wine producers to run their companies because laborers won’t work for them anymore. Drinking alcohol is becoming increasingly illicit. Harun wonders why people can’t drink wine on earth, when “it’s supposed to be flowing profusely in Paradise.”
Here, Harun is referring to increasing religious strictness, as conservative Muslims usually abstain from alcohol. Harun doesn’t particularly object to religion here, but he doesn’t want it to shape his entire society.
Harun also warns the interlocutor that he knows almost nothing about the “geography” of his story. He never returns to Algiers and only remembers it hazily. For him, the story takes place in “three settings of national importance”: the city, the mountains where people can take refuge, and the village, which is everyone’s “ancestral home.” Musa left the city to “speak to God” in the mountains, and Harun and Mama returned to the village. That’s all the information Harun had until he was finally able to read Meursault’s book.
Harun’s insistence that there is no reliable geography for the story is like his earlier lamentation that none of the details of Meursault’s life are clear—at every turn, it seems increasingly impossible to untangle or even describe the crime through logical facts. Consequently, it’s impossible to pursue justice through formal channels like courts, which claim to proceed on the basis of logic and rationality.
Harun imagines that Musa might have been well-known or famous, if only Meursault had given him a name. Mama could have her pension, and Harun could have a brother to take pride in. However, if he had a name, Musa’s murder would have troubled Meursault’s conscience. It’s harder to kill a person with a name and a family.
Again, Harun reiterates that depriving someone of a name isn’t just an insult but something that permits tangible, physical harm.
Harun returns to the outline of the story. At two o’clock on a sunny afternoon, Meursault kills an unnamed Arab. The murderer is convicted for “having buried his mother badly,” and he says that he killed out of “too much sun.” Meursault explains that his friend was involved with a prostitute and asked Meursault to write her a threatening letter, which he did; he believes that “the Arab” wanted to “avenge the prostitute,” but he’s not sure. Besides these unpleasant facts, the rest of the novel is nothing but “embellishment” that the murderer made up after he left prison unscathed.
Here, Harun is basically recapitulating the story as Meursault tells it, including a number of details that appear only in The Stranger, such as the social disapprobation Meursault incurs for insufficiently mourning his mother. Harun’s disdainful tone reveals his dislike of Meursault’s version—by telling his story to the interlocutor, Harun has finally gained the opportunity to be dismissive of Meursault, just as the other man was towards Musa.
According to Harun, the entire world Meursault creates is false. He describes a world in which “property is useless, marriage practically unnecessary,” and people act like robots. Harun remembers that Meursault especially described his love interest as though she is a robot.
In The Stranger, Meursault comes to see that everything—from possessions to relationships like marriage—is meaningless. It’s interesting that Harun completely rejects this worldview, given that he’s generally unconcerned with material things and has very few important relationships.
The mystery seems “more and more unfathomable” to Harun, since he too has “a mother and murder” to grapple with. In fact, he too has killed, one day when he was idle. He swore never to talk about it again, but the interlocutor has loosened his tongue.
Even though Meursault and Harun are linked by the fact that they have both committed murder, this doesn’t provide Harun with much insight into the other’s worldview.
Harun returns to thinking about the beach where Musa was killed. When he finally saw it alongside Mama, the scene was very disappointing—it was “trying to squeeze the Iliad into a narrow space on the street,” while Musa’s story deserves to expand over the earth. Ever since, Harun has nursed a secret belief that Musa was killed on another, hidden beach.
It’s interesting and very touching that Harun compares his brother’s story to one of the most well-regarded Western poems, Homer’s Iliad. In doing so, he’s insisting on the right of Algerian narratives to exist along those that are considered “classics,” rather than being relegated to peripheral status.
Harun has been to the beach six times looking for clues. He recounts one such time: one Friday a decade ago, Harun sees Musa’s silhouette approaching him on the beach as it’s getting dark. Harun has had a lot to drink, and the sun is “overwhelming.” When Harun raises his hand, the shadow does the same; it mimics all his movements. Harun knows he is looking at a reflection, but he’s not sure what it’s a mirror of. Eventually, he finds himself weeping in the sand. In this way, all his attempts to relive the crime led to nothing. He tells the interlocutor there’s no point trying to track Musa down in any cemetery or geographical location.
In this somewhat fantastical episode, Harun believes that he is seeing a ghostly representation of his brother, only to find that he’s looking at his own shadow. The shadow’s mimicry of Harun represents his sense of being inextricably linked to Musa. The ultimate disappointment of the encounter emphasizes Harun’s loneliness at being unable to truly connect with the brother who is so central to his own identity.
Harun describes his version of the facts this way: “Cain”—that is, the French—came to Algeria to build cities and “domesticate” its people, while Musa was simply lying around, so lazy it’s clear he doesn’t own any land or sheep that could inspire envy or lead to murder. Therefore, “Cain” killed Musa for no reason at all.
This metaphor is important, as Harun compared himself to Cain earlier in the novel. It’s clear that he feels a sense of personal wrongdoing, just as Meursault should—but he’s projecting his guilt onto Musa’s death rather than acknowledging that it stems from his own murder of Joseph.
Again, Harun points out the “bottle ghost,” “my double,” at the other end of the bar. The ghost has the same ritual every night: he reads the newspaper and then cuts out certain articles, usually related to murders. He never speaks, and always holds a cigarette. Harun says that maybe “I’m his Arab,” or “maybe he’s mine.”
After Musa’s death, Mama and Harun fruitlessly combed the newspapers for details on his murder. It seems like the ghost is also mining them for information, and perhaps with a similar lack of success.