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Detached skilful parables
on 4 August 2011
Exile and Kingdom is the chrysalis out of which The Fall (his great 3rd novel) formed.The stories depict various forms of exile,isolation,alienation.Four are set in Algeria,one of which "The Guest" gets most directly to Camus's present situation and dilemma: how do you treat the Arabs if you are a French Algerian?Daru is a teacher and is asked to keep an Arab prisoner in his house,one who killed his brother,then take him to the nearest town.There is a sense of the native Arab population on the move,in revolt,ready to rise up against their colonist masters.The story is unsettling in light of Camus's treatment by fellow French intellectuals like Sartre and his position as a pied-noir in Algeria.Camus refused to take sides in the conflict.Daru like Camus is exiled by the choices he has made. Daru does not turn in the prisoner,he sets him on his way to make his own choice,freedom or imprisonment.This kindness may result in death.The village was beginning to stir.This is my favorite story.
The Adulterous Woman is disenchanted with her husband on a business trip through Algeria,she still feels attractive to other men,but the vigor has gone out of their marriage.She communes with the night stars,identifies with the nomads she can see from the fort as they aren't tied to the town.She is no longer an extension of her husband,she is freed to embrace the wider world.The native Algerians are disdained by Marcel,her husband.In The Renegade the exiled ex-priest narrator is waiting in the desert,a prisoner of a desert tribe,who have cut out his tongue,having become converted to the dionysiac religion of his masters. The narrator had been a missionary to the tribes of Taghasa,he now waits to kill the new missionary. He disowns Christ, refusing to believe in his righteousness and declares that the Fetish and the power of hatred are the only true and flawless powers in the world.Camus depicts religion as the disjointed absurdity of a disordered mind.
The Silent Men is about a labour dispute in a Cooper's shop in the Algeria of Camus's youth. They have recently returned to work after a failed strike. When the owner's daughter has a serious, acute illness requiring an ambulance, the men do not offer any words of condolence. Where once there had been a sense of being all part of a whole, they no longer feel such for the owner who refused them.The next story is about the successful artist,Jonas, who ceases to be able to paint.The tone reflects Camus's bitterness and sense of isolation at the time of the quarrel with Sartre and his circle.In his new solitude Camus would never show more solidarity, giving way to the French equation/ pun solitaire-solidaire,the only word(s) written on a blank canvas by Jonas.The last story,The Growing Stone,is set on a Brazilian coastal town.A visiting French engineer,D'Arrast,finds a sort of mystical communion with the remote people.Many of the scenes in Exile and Kingdom have a dream-like quality.The `Kingdom' in these stories is one of fantasy.The exile is real and from it stems the fantasy of the kingdom.In the stories solidarity pitches up against solitude.The stories are not easy reads,you feel Camus is trying to work on themes in miniature,but they fascinate anyone who has read his more well known novels and essays.