The Meursault Investigation: Parody or Tribute to The Stranger? | Teen Ink

The Meursault Investigation: Parody or Tribute to The Stranger?

September 16, 2023
By Andrew_Ju BRONZE, Wallingford, Connecticut
Andrew_Ju BRONZE, Wallingford, Connecticut
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

In one’s youth, one probably has heard of stories such as “Little Red Riding Hood” told from the wolf’s perspective or “Three Little Pigs” told from the wolf’s point of view. I thought The Meursault Investigation would be similar, but from a different philosophical perspective that challenges absurdism, the essence of The Stranger. Yet, The Meursault Investigation was totally different from what I expected. 

Rather than The Stranger, which puts emphasis on philosophy, The Meursault Investigation is a plot based book, with strands of philosophical ideas intertwined in the plots. It allows readers to follow Harun’s life trajectory from a naive child to a grumpy old man, making his philosophical thoughts on life more natural in comparison to Meursault. It also brings a fundamental difference between the two books in the style of narration. In The Meursault Investigation, Dauod attempts at the style of narration that fits Harun’s character as an ill-tempered old man, but simultaneously hurting the reading experience. 

Harun’s current state can be largely attributed to his brother Musa’s death, and the way his mother responds. However, Daoud initially presents readers with the impression that Harun holds a close relationship with his mother: “Mama’s still alive today” (Dauod 1). Rather than complaining, Harun mocks Meursault, whose “mamam” dies in the first sentence of The Stranger, as Meursault kills Harun’s brother Musa in The Stranger. It completely changes his life trajectory. Worse, when Meursault documents the killing event in The Stranger, Musa is simply referred to as “The Arab”, without a name.  However, as the story unravels, Daoud presents readers the true culprit to Harun’s state now: the unhealthy relationship between Harun and his mother.

Harun’s mother turns into a psychopath after Musa dies. She forces Harun to wear Musa’s clothes and forbids him to walk off alone, especially near the beaches. She would reprimand Harun if he scratches himself, as if the body isn’t his personal property, but Musa’s. In some ways, Harun’s mother sees Musa’s soul living on in Harun’s body, and that Harun has to live on as Musa, which only changes after Harun kills Jacob and avenges Musa. Harun’s mother seems to recover from her disorders and treats Harun like her son. However, growing up under the effect of his mother’s illusion already alters his personality: “When I was fifteen, I had to kill a dog with my own hands, using a blade fashioned from the lid of a sardine can, to make the boys of my age stop laughing at me and calling me a coward and a wimp” (Dauod 104). The condition Harun grows up in naturally makes him a grumpy person who can’t conform to societal norms, and struggles to find the truth of life. However, as an attempt to make the character's personality consistent, Daoud goes through efforts to mimic the tone Harun, a drunk, grumpy and old man would speak in. It further constructs the character, but at the same time makes it difficult to accept and keep track of what is going on for some readers. 

The way Harun narrates isn’t particularly appealing to most people: “And that’s where you go wrong, you and all your predecessors” (Dauod 6). Rather than presenting his case, Harun lectures the readers. For the most part, people hate to be told what to do, especially by a person who doesn’t necessarily tell the truth: “Yes, it’s a big fib. From beginning to end. The scene’s too perfect, I made it all up. Of course I never dared to say any such thing to Meriem” (Dauod 135). Readers are unable to differentiate whether Harun says something to look better, or whether it actually happens. 

On top of that, the nature of the book complicates the reading process. The book unravels like an interview, where readers take the perspective of a person who asks Harun about his story to write a book. Naturally, the book doesn’t proceed as a single flow of river, but in a stream of consciousness. The conversational nature of the book means that the story doesn’t proceed linearly, but rather whatever Harun thinks about. The plot jumps back and forth like how a person would behave in a conversation, especially after consuming alcohol. People are probably familiar with the situation when an old person drinks a bit too much and talks about their own life stories. Usually the stories are based off of something that really happened, but exaggerated, similar to what Harun is doing. If Dauod writes The Meursault Investigation as an autobiography, perhaps the reading experience would be drastically different. Meursault, on the other hand, is a logical, reliable narrator who approaches events in life objectively and with close scrutiny to his surroundings. The language used in The Stranger well matches Meursault’s personality, but if Dauod uses the same style of narration in The Meursault Investigation, even though it would be easier for readers to read through the book, the characters would be less vivid due to the differences in Harun and Meursault’s personality. 

Despite distinctions in their lives, Harun and Meursault reach similar conclusions about the world. The parallelism of the two books becomes more and more apparent as the two books reach their final chapters: “Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and said I wouldn’t put up with being prayed for by him. I grabbed him by the collar of his gandoura … He wasn’t even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man” (Daoud 141), which echoes an almost identical event in The Stranger: “Then, I don’t know how it was, but something seemed to break inside me, and I started yelling at the top of my voice. I hurled insults at him, I told him not to waste his rotten prayers on me … Living as he did, like a corpse, he couldn’t even be sure of being alive” (Camus 70). To both Harun and Meursault, believing in a religion is an escape in the search for life’s meaning, something not worth wasting time on. Harun takes it a step further by completely breaking Islamic rules as a reflection of his dislike of religions’ restrictiveness. He drinks and mocks people's laziness on Fridays. Harun dislikes religion not only because of absurdism, but also the impacts it made on Algeria, transforming it into a more conservative nation.  

Harun, in comparison to Meursault, seems more reasonable to believe in absurdism. His dad left, his brother gets killed randomly by a Frenchman for no reason, and it completely changes his life. His mother becomes crazy, and he has to navigate himself through the obstacles of life in his youth. Nothing goes right for Harun, so it’s hard for him to see life as reasonable. Yet, Meursault seems to be living a pleasant life, has a great job and a girlfriend who is willing to marry him and stick with him even though he goes to jail. Readers are unable to comprehend Meursault based on the information that Camus presents, making readers more likely to sympathize with Harun rather than Meursault. 

Overall, Dauod’s efforts of shaping Harun’s personality and his life story helps readers to understand the philosophical implications of The Meursault Investigation better, and the reasons why Haruns sees the world as he does. However, it also has drawbacks, with the writing style making it difficult for readers to navigate through the novel. The debate of whether The Meursault Investigation is better than The Stranger or not is a tricky topic, as The Meursault Investigation doesn’t exist without The Stranger. The Meursault Investigation may exceed The Stranger in many aspects, but its success can be attributed to the success of The Stranger. The Meursault Investigation might not be a successful novel, but also not a fiasco. It is an attempt pondering a question which most people never thought of, and that is its significance.

The author's comments:

This is a piece that was written after Ie read The Stranger by Albert Camus and a response, The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Dauod. I decided to write about how the two books, especially the two narrators, are similar and different.

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