National Identity

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There is no doubt that upon reading Albert’s Camus’ Exile and the Kingdom1, there are many elements that, together, contribute to the overall effect of its presentation. Whether these components are literary or personal insights, what is definite is that the Nobel Prize winner strives for introducing and refining the theme of mental exile. Having been a pied-noir – of European descent born in Algeria – Camus effectively portrays some of his experiences through one of his fictional protagonists, Daru, in “The Guest”. Double alienation and solitude are surely the two main notions and ideas that originate in this short story.

Daru, in perfect similarity to his creator (Camus), is recognized as a pied-noir; thus, a sense of mental exile is established as the short story begins, shedding much light on the reality of forced colonialist rule. Recognition of this overarching theme stems from the fact that it “comes closest to Camus’s own situation during the time of Algeria’s struggle for independence” (xix). Surely, French colonialists’ direct dominance in Algeria contributes to Daru’s sense of estrangement and isolation throughout the plot. One sees that the schoolmaster’s location is “farther to the north” of his desired location, which would have been at the “foothills that separate the high plateaus from the desert” (76). A superficial reading of this would prove severe: there is much symbolism here that requires close analysis for its recognition. Having been assigned to his post by French orders, a clear and profound distinction can be made between Daru’s proposed terrains. His current location (on the high plateau) represents European influence while the nearby desert symbolizes Arab identity. Being a victim of mental exile as a result of the current French-Algerian conflict, it is here that we come to realize that Daru in fact is “in a way doubly exiled” (xxi). The schoolmaster finds the foothills to be his solution to his internal conflict. He struggles to...
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