dependence on an immoral, violent pimp. A whore whose honor her Arab brother feels himself duty-bound to avenge. If you had met me a few decades ago, I would have served you up the version with the prostitute slash Algerian land and the settler who abuses her with repeated rapes and violence. But I’ve gained somedistance now. We never had a sister, my brother Zujj and I, period.
I can’t help wondering, over and over, what was Musa doing on that beach that day? I don’t know. Idleness is an easy explanation, and blaming it on destiny is too pompous. Maybe the proper question, after all, is the following: What was
hero doing on that beach? And not only that day but every day, going a long way back! A century, to be frank. No, believe me, I’m not one of those. It doesn’t matter that he was French and I’m Algerian, except that Musa was on the beach first, and it was your hero who came looking for him. Reread the paragraph in the book. He himself admits he was slightly lost when they came upon the two Arabs, almost by chance. What I mean to say is, your hero had a life that shouldn’t have led him to such murderous idleness. He was starting to get famous, he was young and free, he had a paying job, and he was capable of seeing things as they are. He should have moved to Paris by then, or married Marie. Why did he go to that very beach on that very day? What’s inexplicable is not only the murder but also the fellow’s life. He’s a corpse that magnificently describes the quality of the light in this country while stuck in some hereafter with no gods and no hells. Nothing but blinding routine. His life? If he hadn’t killed and written, nobody would have remembered him.
I want some more to drink. Call him.
It was already the case some years ago, and it’s still the case today: When I add things up and go over my lists, I’m always a little surprised. In the first place, the beachdoesn’t really exist, and also there’s Musa’s alleged sister, who’s either an allegory or just a pathetic last-minute excuse. And then there are the witnesses: One by one, they turn out to be pseudonyms, or not really neighbors, or memories, or people who fled after the crime. My list is down to two couples and an orphan. On one side, your Meursault and his mother; on the other, Mama and Musa; and right in the middle, unable to be the son of either, me, sitting in this bar and trying to hold your attention.
Judging from your enthusiasm, the book’s success is still undiminished, but I repeat, I think it’s an awful swindle. After Independence, the more I read of your hero’s work, the more I had the feeling I was pressing my face against the window of a big room where a party was going on that neither my mother nor I had been invited to. Everything happened without us. There’s not a trace of our loss or of what became of us afterward. Not a single trace, my friend! The whole world eternally witnesses the same murder in the blazing sun, but no one saw anything, and no one watched us recede into the distance. No one! There’s good reason to get a little angry, don’t you think? If only your hero had been content with bragging, without going so far as to write a book! There were thousands like him back then, but it was his talent that made his crime perfect.
Say, the ghost is absent again this evening. Two nights in a row. He must be conducting the dead, or reading books nobody understands.
No, thanks, no café au lait for me! I despise that concoction.
Actually, it’s Fridays I don’t like. I often spend them on the balcony of my apartment, looking at the people, the streets, and the mosque. It’s so imposing, it’s as though it prevents you from seeing God. I’ve lived there — I’m on the fourth floor — for twenty years now, I think. The whole place is falling into ruin. When I lean over my balcony and observe young children playing, it seems like I’m watching a live broadcast of the