Kamel Daoud, author of the award-winning The Meursault Investigation and columnist for Algeria’s Quotidien d’Oran, was recently interviewed by The New Yorker‘s Deborah Treisman for the Page-Turner blog. They spoke about his views on Albert Camus and The Stranger, his views on writing, and his work as a journalist.
Though The Meursault Investigation is inspired by Camus and his seminal novel, Daoud says that he does not intend for it to stand as a simple response or correction. Rather, his novel is in conversation with Camus’s work, and is a way for him to “find [his] own path through Camus”:
My basic idea was to start with Albert Camus’s “The Stranger,” to question the work, but to move on from there—to question my own presence in the world, my present and today’s reality. It was also a matter of analyzing Camus’s work, of “rereading” it, of having it reread by an Algerian and by contemporary readers.
While Daoud’s novel is closely linked to The Stranger, it also stands on its own. Daoud explained the novel’s focus on the relationship between a mother and son, and how that relationship is reflected in Algerian and Arab culture:
At the center of this novel is the strong bond between a son and his mother. It’s a bond that is complex in Arab culture and in the Mediterranean region. Here, it is strengthened by the characters’ shared grief and by the desire for revenge in one and the desire for freedom in the other. The bond between a mother and her son is not always rosy: it’s where your bond with the rest of the world is formed. If you stumble here, you will fall wherever you go.
The Meursault Investigation is Daoud’s first novel, but he has always wanted to be a writer, and the form of the novel allows him a diiferent path through which to interact with the world:
I am a journalist by accident—and because it’s the profession that brings me closest to writing as well as to a vivid experience of reality … I love to write … I am going to write, I write, and I have always written: it is my vocation and my passion. I will defend it. It is also the proof and the practice of my form of luck: my freedom. I have a right to freedom because I am alive and because I am going to die. This is why I write.