Books on GIF #4 — 'The Meursault Investigation' by Kamel Daoud


Books on GIF is a review and discussion of random books told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

Hope you're all enjoying Memorial Day Weekend. This Sunday's book is 'The Meursault Investigation' by Algerian writer Kamel Daoud.

The Meursault Investigation

This book is a sequel/rebuke to 'L'Etranger/The Stranger' by Albert Camus, told from the perspective of the brother of the unnamed 'Arab' murdered by Camus' protagonist Meursault. I loved that concept. I imagined a fresh take on a classic I enjoyed/misunderstood when I was 17 and angry and blasting Nine Inch Nails.

Not so much. The book is framed as a drunken rambling monologue from a man who has been tortured by the murder of his brother, Musa, which took place decades earlier.

The monologue thing was clever for about three pages. Then it got tedious.  And at around page 50, the book, like Skynet, achieved self-awareness.



Harun details the grief and alienation he and his mother felt in the years after the murder. Along the way you get a sense of life in Algeria during and after its break with France. The tale is compelling at times, but the rambling monologue felt like a device to fill pages.

There are many novels that would have worked better as short stories for magazines* (looking at you, 'Everything is Illuminated'**). Throw this one onto that pile.

And I had the unshakable feeling I was being mansplained to.

Me: I'm bored.

Book: Well, actually, my monologue is profound and clever. See how my main character is the anti-Meursault? Meursault feels nothing, this guy feels everything! Meursault's mother is dead, this guy's mother is still alive! And I totally give an authentic take on post-independence Algeria and the fallout of French colonialism and I rightly shame the west for ignoring native peoples.

Me: Yes. Very important. But still:

'The Meursault Investigation' (Meursault contre-enquete) was published in 2015 by Other Press. 143 pages.

What's next? In the coming weeks, I'll review 'A Brief History of Seven Killings' by Marlon James and 'A Time for Everything' by Karl Ove Knausgaard, among others.

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* Sure enough, an excerpt was published in the New Yorker.
** Hat tip to friend Anna W. for the insight about 'Everything is Illuminated' years ago.