The Algerian Island in the Novels of Albert Camus: The End of the Pied-Noir Adventure Tale
Albert Camuss novels provide insight into the worldview of the pieds-noirs, Algerian-born descendants of European settlers facing ever-increasing pressure to abandon what they saw as their homeland as decolonization accelerated after the Second World War, when Camus was writing. This study examines Camuss four main novels, Létranger, La peste, La chute, and Le premier homme in their colonial context. Through a careful analysis of Camuss use of the tropes and imagery associated with the robinsonnade, or island adventure tale, and its inherent connection to colonialist discourse, this study nuances our understanding of Camuss position on the subject of Algeria. We will argue that Camuss fiction suggests mixed feelings about the colonial project in Algeria and furthermore that he clearly anticipated the impending end of the French-Algerian experiment.
In Létranger we see how the Algerian landscape is defined by impenetrable borders, forcing mutually antagonistic groups into violent encounters within narrow spaces. In La peste we examine the islanding of the city of Oran due to the plague outbreak, and we note how the functioning of the city is laid bare due to the pressure of quarantine. La chute shows us that Camus was fixated on an insular Algeria even when writing of northern Europe. Le premier homme provides final proof that the island Algeria portrayed in Camuss novels is associated with the colonial adventure of the pieds-noirs, and that this adventure will end, as in all robinsonnades, with a return to the mother country.
The novels of Albert Camus were read as expressions of universal existentialist truth until Conor Cruise OBrien pointed out the importance of considering them in the colonial Algerian context. Subsequent criticism of Camus has been largely shaped by OBriens approach and by that of the late Edward Said, who followed up OBriens critiques with an even stronger indictment in Culture and Imperialism of Camus as being in outright opposition to Algerian independence and in assuming that the French colonial project in Algeria is immutable. We will more clearly analyze Camuss perspective on the French colonial endeavor in Algeria as it is expressed in his novels.
Advisor:Dr. Philip Smith; Dr. Yves Citton; Dr. Giuseppina Mecchia; Dr. Philip Watts
School:University of Pittsburgh
School Location:USA - Pennsylvania
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:06/27/2004