The Meursault Investigation

by

Kamel Daoud

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Meursault Investigation can help.
An ethnic or religious signifier, referring to people of Middle Eastern or North African heritage and/or Muslims. Harun complains that European colonists use this term to lump together all the people and societies of the Middle East, rather than understanding or respecting them. Meursault’s dismissive use of the term “Arab” in place of Musa’s actual name exemplifies this phenomenon.

Arab Quotes in The Meursault Investigation

The The Meursault Investigation quotes below are all either spoken by Arab or refer to Arab. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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

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 3 Quotes

Who, me? Nostalgic for French Algeria? No! You haven’t understood a word I’ve said. I was just trying to tell you that back then, we Arabs gave the impression that we were waiting, not going around in circles like today.

Related Characters: Harun (speaker), The Interlocutor
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Arab. I never felt Arab, you know. Arab-ness is like Negro-ness, which only exists in the white man’s eyes. In our neighborhood, in our world, we were Muslims, we had given names, faces, and habits. Period. The others were “the strangers,” the roumis God brought here to put us to the test, but whose days were numbered anyway […].

Related Characters: Harun (speaker)
Related Symbols: Names
Page Number: 60
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

Arab Term Timeline in The Meursault Investigation

The timeline below shows where the term Arab 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
...world is “clean, clear, exact,” marked by precise language. The only incongruous element is the Arabs who occasionally appear, seeming like “blurred incongruous objects.” (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 incessantly for seventy years.”... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Harun sketches out Meursault’s story for the interlocutor. Meursault kills an Arab who, in his novel, apparently lacks a name. Then he explains that his murder is... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Harun 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... (full context)
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...a lie. In fact, “Independence only pushed people on both sides to switch roles.” Before, Arabs were “ghosts” in their own country, which was occupied by the French. Now, the French... (full context)
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...genealogy is “pretty pathetic”: he’s the son of the watchman, and the brother of the Arab. In Oran, origins are very important: everyone wants to prove that their family is one... (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 his conquest by “giving names to whatever he appropriates... (full context)
Chapter 2
Grief and Family Life Theme Icon
...men like Musa. There are a few women who dress like Europeans and move between Arab and foreign spheres; boys like Harun harass them and call them whores, but they are... (full context)
Chapter 3
Religion and Nihilism Theme Icon
...question, Harun says fiercely that he’s not nostalgic for French Algeria. However, before Independence, “we Arabs gave the impression that we were waiting, not going around in circles like today.” The... (full context)
Chapter 4
Justice and Retribution Theme Icon
...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 trial was a “travesty” of... (full context)
Chapter 5
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...murders. He never speaks, and always holds a cigarette. Harun says that maybe “I’m his Arab,” or “maybe he’s mine.” (full context)
Chapter 6
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Harun reflects that he never felt “Arab”—this is a classification imposed by white colonists. Growing up, he thought of himself as a... (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 by the question of... (full context)
Chapter 13
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
As a teenager in Hadjout, Harun finally begins school, where he is one of two Arab students. Both Arab boys arrive without shoes, as they don’t have any, and Harun is... (full context)
Chapter 15
Colonialism and its Aftermath Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Nihilism Theme Icon
...just giving him false information to fill up his notebooks. Writing the biography of “the Arab” is like writing about God, because no one has really met either one. Harun wishes... (full context)