on the all-consuming and unexpected success of Camus’s ‘L’Étranger’

0443e862-3658-11e7-b74e-007fb206abf9Edward Hughes at the TLS:

The vogue for the American novel in France in the 1930s helps explain why Hemingway is frequently cited as an influence on Camus. Kaplan focuses more tightly, however, on James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and draws some striking parallels. And yet the origins of L’Étranger were intensely local. As Kaplan explains, Camus’s work as a reporter working for Alger-Républicain meant that he was covering court cases that reflected the tensions and violence that were part and parcel of colonial Algeria. In the edgy Algiers life of the period, pimping, street violence and machismo were all part of the mix. Kaplan reports specifically on a case of racial segregation on Zéralda beach outside Algiers in the summer of 1942 and the killings of Arabs that followed.

If such a climate of violence finds its way into L’Étranger, so too does the posturing of courtroom officials that had caught the eye of a young journalist on the lookout for copy. Kaplan cites the example of a French judge, Louis Vaillant, who, dealing with a Muslim defendant accused by the colonial authorities of murdering a conservative Islamic leader (this was the El Okbi trial of June 1939), produced a crucifix to let the defendant see what the guiding principle of the judge’s life was. In the novel, Camus would assign the cross-wielding role to Meursault’s examining magistrate.

more here.