The Meursault Investigation

by

Kamel Daoud

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Musa Character Analysis

Harun’s older brother, murdered during Harun’s childhood by Meursault, a French settler. During his lifetime, Musa is the head of the family, providing for Mama and Harun after his father abandons them; thus, Mama is both economically and emotionally dependent on Musa and never fully recovers from the trauma of his death. As an adult, Harun surmises that Musa’s altercation with Meursault resulted from an insult to Musa’s girlfriend’s honor; this possibility upsets him because it reveals how little he, as a child, knew about his brother’s adult life. Shortly after the War of Liberation through which Algeria gains independence from France, Harun (and by extension, Mama) avenges Musa’s death by murdering a French settler named Joseph. Eventually, Meriem visits Harun and informs him that Musa’s killer eventually returned to France and wrote a novel in which he frames the murder as part of his own existential crisis, dismissively and namelessly referring to Musa as “the Arab” (Meursault is actually the protagonist of Albert Camus’s 1942 novel The Stranger, to which this novel is a response). Meursault’s novel provides information about Musa’s death that Harun and Mama have been seeking for years, but they are dismayed to see the indifference and lack of compassion with which Meursault treats the man he kills. Since Musa dies when Harun is very young, Harun has few memories of him, and Musa’s personality remains vague. This vagueness mimics the indifference with which Camus treats “the Arab” in his own novel, but here it makes Musa into an “Everyman” figure, representing all Arab Algerians adversely affected by the colonial regime, and it places his loss at the center of the narrative.

Musa Quotes in The Meursault Investigation

The The Meursault Investigation quotes below are all either spoken by Musa or refer to Musa. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Other Press edition of The Meursault Investigation published in 2015.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Well, the original guy was such a good storyteller, he managed to make people forget his crime, whereas the other one was a poor illiterate God created apparently for the sole purpose of taking a bullet and returning to dust – an anonymous person who didn’t even have the time to be given a name.

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa, Meursault
Related Symbols: Names
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

And that’s where you go wrong, you and all your predecessors. The absurd is what my brother and I carry on our backs or in the bowels of our land, not what the other was or did.

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa, Meursault, The Interlocutor
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

For centuries, the settler increases his fortune, giving names to whatever he appropriates and taking them away from whatever makes him feel uncomfortable. If he calls my brother “the Arab,” it’s so he can kill him the way one kills time, by strolling around aimlessly.

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa, Meursault
Related Symbols: Names
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Consequently, my mother imposed on me a strict duty of reincarnation. For instance, as soon as I grew a little, she made me wear my dead brother’s clothes, even though they were still too big for me […] I was forbidden to wander away from her, to walk by myself, to sleep in unknown places, and, while we were still in Algiers, to venture anywhere near the beach.

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa, Mama
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

The gratuitousness of Musa’s death was unconscionable. And now my revenge had just been struck down to the same level of insignificance!

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa, Joseph / The Frenchman
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I know that if Musa hadn’t killed me – actually, it was Musa, Mama, and your hero, those are my three murderers – I would have had a better life, at peace with my language on a little patch of land somewhere in this country, but that wasn’t my destiny.

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa, Mama, Meursault
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

I learned to read, not because I wanted to talk like the others but because I wanted to find a murderer, though I didn’t admit that to myself in the beginning.

Related Characters: Musa (speaker)
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

At one and the same time, I felt insulted and revealed to myself. I spent the whole night reading that book. My heart was pounding, I was about to suffocate, it was like reading a book written by God himself. A veritable shock, that’s what it was. Everything was there except the essential thing: Musa’s name.

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa, Meursault
Related Symbols: Names
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

I was looking for traces of my brother in the book, and what I found there instead was my own reflection, I discovered I was practically the murderer’s double. I finally came to the last lines in the book: “…had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me cries of hate.”

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa, Meursault
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

The Arab’s the Arab, God’s God. No name, no initials. Blue overalls and blue sky. Two unknown persons on an endless beach. Which is truer? An intimate question. It’s up to you to decide.

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), Musa
Related Symbols: Names
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Meursault Investigation LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Meursault Investigation PDF

Musa Character Timeline in The Meursault Investigation

The timeline below shows where the character Musa appears in The Meursault Investigation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
The forgotten man was Harun’s brother (Musa). Nothing is left of him except Harun, who speaks in his place and waits in... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...the novel and absorbed its meaning. The protagonist has “a man’s name,” while Harun’s brother (Musa) had “the name of an incident.” The author could have named him “Two P.M.” or... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
Harun’s brother, Musa, is “a brief Arab,” who lived only for two hours one afternoon and “has died... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...to his girlfriend’s body to his belief in God. He’s been able to write about Musa’s murder without paying any attention to him as a person. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...brilliant writing and sympathizing with his existential crisis. In fact, no one knows anything about Musa. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Harun wants to tell the story of his brother, Musa. He tells his interlocutor that by coming into the bar, he has “opened a bag.”... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...he can cure by killing someone at random. From the beginning, Meursault is “looking” for Musa; he seeks him out “not so much as to meet him as to never have... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...has conspired with him to hush up the crime and forget about the victim. Meanwhile, Musa had no say in his death or its subsequent portrayal. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...happens when “the scales are balanced.” Moreover, he wants to die without feeling haunted by Musa’s ghost. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...believes the story should be written “from right to left,” starting from when “the Arab” (Musa) was still alive and continuing until his death. Harun’s only reason for learning this language... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...never happen to him, and Harun acted from similar motives. Every night, it seems that Musa has risen from the grave to ask Harun why he “let this happen” to him. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
Harun tells the interlocutor that he only had one brother and no sister. Musa was older than him, and although he was thin from hunger, he was also very... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
Two memories are as follows: One day, Musa comes home from the port where he works as a porter and puts young Harun... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...the family years before. Rumors often circulate as to where their father is, and when Musa hears news, he has long, furtive conversations with Mama from which Harun is excluded. He... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
Harun’s family life is centered around Musa, and Musa “revolved around our father,” whom Harun has never even seen. The only thing... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
To young Harun, Musa is a “simple god.” When Harun first hears of his brother’s death, he feels not... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
Harun never weeps for Musa, but he stops looking up at the sky. Years later, he declines to fight in... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...view, the story of the murder doesn’t begin with Meursault’s famous opening lines but by Musa’s last comment to Mama that he’ll be home earlier than usual. Harun remembers it was... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
Harun warns the interlocutor to make a note of Musa’s name, otherwise he will stop telling the story. He says his genealogy is “pretty pathetic”:... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Harun’s brother is named Musa, but he will always be known as “the Arab.” For centuries, the settler has achieved... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
After Independence, Mama tried for years to have Musa classified as a martyr, in order to be awarded a small pension by the new... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Harun often repeats Musa’s name so it doesn’t vanish. He wants the interlocutor to write in down in large... (full context)
Chapter 2
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
During Harun’s childhood, Mama only told him one type of story—that of Musa. Depending on Mama’s mood, the stories took a different course each time. She only tells... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
However, most of Mama’s stories are devoted to remembering Musa’s last day on earth. She remembers almost every detail of that day, and her storytelling... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
In fact, Harun knows nothing of what happened between Musa’s departure from home in the morning and his death in the afternoon. There was no... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...in the air, an unspoken comment between Mama and the secret girlfriend she believes that Musa has. Most of the women in the neighborhood are “sisters,” who “offered the prospect of... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...such as the one Meursault describes in his book. However, his version is necessarily false; Musa could not have been fighting over his sister’s honor, because he didn’t even have a... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Mama never discussed the possibility of a girlfriend, but after Musa’s murder, Harun was often treated in the neighborhood as “the heir of some recovered honor,”... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Harun knows nothing about the woman Musa was involved with, but Harun heard Musa whisper “Zubida” in his sleep the night before... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...confusion of Algiers. For him and Mama, the city will always be a reminder of Musa’s murder and “a place where something pure and ancient was lost.” (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...calling all unknown men “Mohammed”; Harun does the same thing but substitutes his brother’s name, Musa. It’s also the name of the bartender in this bar. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...Shortly after Independence, he returned to Algiers alone, wanting to conduct his own investigation of Musa’s death. As soon as he leaves the train station, he feels hot and “ridiculous,” a... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Harun doesn’t even remember the exact moment he learned of Musa’s death. He only remembers grown-ups yelling and gesturing, and a long period of uncertainty before... (full context)
Religion and Nihilism Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
Harun has named not only the barman but another patron Musa as well. He says that the second Musa, an old man, was once an inspector... (full context)
Chapter 3
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
When they leave Algiers after Musa’s death, Harun and Mama stay with an uncle who treats them badly, consigning them to... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...sees her, since she spends most of her time wandering the city trying to investigate Musa’s death. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Musa’s funeral doesn’t take place for forty days, because the police refuse to return his body... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
As she questions the neighbors, the police, and Musa’s friends, Mama’s mourning becomes “a surprising comedy, a marvelous act she put on and refined... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
After forty days, the imam declares Musa drowned and carries out the proper rituals for a funeral when nobody is present. Afterwards,... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...At the time, he felt like she was punishing him for refusing to die like Musa. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Periodically, Mama becomes convinced that she’s found Musa’s body or heard his footsteps outside. Harun hates Mama’s fantasies, and it’s this that pushes... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...returns home he feels like he’s “stepping into a grave.” It seems that Mama and Musa are both waiting for him and wondering why he hasn’t spent the day “sharpening the... (full context)
Religion and Nihilism Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...his mother is still alive. She rarely speaks anymore, perhaps because there’s nothing left of Musa to mourn. All Harun can remember is “the way she would crawl inside my skin”... (full context)
Chapter 4
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Since Musa’s body never appeared, Mama “imposed […] a strict duty of reincarnation” on Harun. She makes... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
Mama wants Harun to be the “visible trace” of Musa, and Harun complies. Since he’s forbidden to do so many things, he develops a fierce... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...the interlocutor doesn’t want to hear about his life, though—he must want to track down Musa’s body or some real clues. However, Harun says that Musa’s death will always remain a... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...He imagines that he is “Cain” and has killed his own brother. In fact, since Musa’s death, he’s often wanted to kill him again in order to move past the event... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
In Algiers, Mama often takes Harun to the cemetery where there’s a gravestone for Musa, despite his missing body. Harun thinks it’s ridiculous that she mourns and cries over the... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...book many times. Now he summarizes it again: it seems like Meursault’s mother never existed, Musa is just a “replaceable” Arab, Musa’s family left the city after his murder, and the... (full context)
Chapter 5
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...he wants to lead a better life, he should find a woman and stop chasing Musa. (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Harun imagines that Musa might have been well-known or famous, if only Meursault had given him a name. Mama... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 6
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...they just avoid them and wait patiently for them to leave. Therefore, it’s impossible that Musa would’ve been angry enough to try to kill Meursault. The Algerians were so sure of... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Musa only became “the Arab” once he was viewed through Meursault’s eyes. Harun is still bothered... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
One of the reasons that Musa’s story is so gripping is that in some ways it’s everyone’s story—just going into the... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
The afternoon of his death, Musa was supposed to meet his friend Larbi. However, after the murder, Larbi never appeared—he fled... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...like to talk about this much. It seems unnecessary for Meursault to allege falsely that Musa’s sister was a whore—the only reason could be a desire to besmirch his legacy. Harun... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...women”—Meursault’s girlfriend in his own novel, with her “impossible innocence,” and the hypothetical sister of Musa, “a distant symbol of our land, plowed by customers and passerby.” Years ago, Harun was... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...another note, Harun wonders what Meursault was doing on the beach. According to his novel, Musa was already there when Meursault arrived, so it’s almost as if he came there looking... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...more and more of the story’s elements don’t actually exist, from the beach itself to Musa’s imaginary sister, to the various witnesses who never appeared after the crime. (full context)
Chapter 7
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...liberate Harun from his own mother and her constant unspoken accusations that he hasn’t avenged Musa’s death. Moreover, when Harun was young he lived in Hadjout, a conservative society where boys... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Religion and Nihilism Theme Icon
...one is inside his head, and from it he looks out onto the hot beach, Musa’s body, and Meursault holding a gun. The man is very thin, and he seems stiff... (full context)
Chapter 8
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Harun shoots the Frenchman with seven bullets, two more than Meursault fired into Musa. Mama stands behind him the whole time, and Harun feels that she is guiding him... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Behind Harun, Mama breathes softly, much more easily than she has since Musa died. It’s nighttime, and the moon seems to calm everything down. Harun knows that, with... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...that he has murdered the Frenchman around two in the morning, just as Meursault murdered Musa at two in the afternoon. (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Harun is sure that he and Mama thought about Musa simultaneously, believing that killing this Frenchman is their duty to Musa and at the same... (full context)
Chapter 9
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...than Meursault’s. In his memory, he acts out every role in the story, from the Musa’s part to that of “the stranger” (Meursault) to the judge at the trial. This constant... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...for his crimes. She was the one who held his arm while he shot, “while Musa held hers.” Harun knows that he is philosophizing, but he says that Meursault did the... (full context)
Chapter 10
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...have come for an explanation; Mama put on a tearful performance about her grief for Musa, and eventually the soldiers just kiss her forehead and tell her that her son has... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...town hall that day. He feels stunned by the fact that he is alive, when Musa and Joseph are not. He can’t believe that Mama is going about her tasks normally... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...words. Meursault’s access to this language is the reason he could write the story of Musa’s murder so definitively. (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...that she couldn’t let her only son join the revolution. She has told them about Musa’s death, but she’s not sure if they believe her, since her newspaper articles don’t even... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...school, where he quickly progresses until he’s able to read aloud the newspaper clippings describing Musa’s death. In a way, Harun reflects, he has fought the revolution within his own family... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
Unburdened by Musa or Mama, Harun feels free and calm in the cell. However, when the guard comes... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...move between the living and the dead just by changing his name, from Harun to Musa, Meursault, or Joseph. These days, death is as random and “absurd” as it was when... (full context)
Chapter 11
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
The officer asks if Musa was really killed by a Frenchman, and Harun says that he was. After this the... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...of his act. He feels that his murder has taken on the same “insignificance” that Musa’s death had in the eyes of the French authorities. The next day, the soldiers release... (full context)
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...“age, his appetite for young girls’ breasts, [to] his work in Hadjout.” This similarity to Musa, added to her conviction of his bad character, made her want to punish him. Harun... (full context)
Chapter 12
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 13
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...fit in among the other students, but because he wants to uncover the truth of Musa’s murder. As he becomes more confident, he can read and translate the newspaper clippings that... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...improves, Harun realizes that Mama has sent him to school so that he can revive Musa by retelling his story. Harun knows that he’s expected to produce some new information from... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...way until a few months before he commits the murder, when she stops talking about Musa so much. Perhaps she already had a premonition that Joseph would appear in the courtyard.... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...woman (Meriem) arrives at their house in 1963, asking if they are the family of Musa Uled el-Assas. Almost no one pays them visits, especially since Harun has disgraced himself by... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
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...on a stool, telling Harun that she is a teacher studying a book written by Musa’s murderer, Meursault. (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...has never heard of Meursault’s book, and he and Mama are speechless. It seems that Musa is rising from the dead again, forcing them to feel grief. Meriem speaks gently to... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...For her, the story seems very simple—the only difficulty has been the investigating to find Musa’s family. She and Harun arrange to meet the next day at the train station, without... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Meriem leaves Harun with the book. Mama is astonished to know that the details of Musa’s murder have been written down all this time. However, Harun thinks her awe is unmerited—the... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...come to grips with how beautiful the writing is, but he also can’t believe that Musa’s name is absent from the entire work. Contrary to his hopes, he can’t learn anything... (full context)
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Harun feels that the whole book is “a perfect joke.” Instead of teaching him about Musa, it shows him “his own reflection”; he realizes that he and Meursault are incredibly similar,... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...the town or lying under a tree. He tells Meriem everything about his childhood and Musa’s death; the only thing he hides is the murder he’s committed. In turn, she brings... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...all the years Harun has lived, he finds he spends most of his time replaying Musa’s story. He can’t even talk about it with Mama anymore, as she has become mute.... (full context)
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...a secret that they don’t. Sometimes he wants to shout to everyone that he and Musa are the real heroes of “that famous story,” but he knows no one will believe... (full context)