Exile And The Kingdom

I have been reading Exile And The Kingdom by Albert Camus over the past 2 weeks. It is a collection of 6 short stories by this Nobel laureate who wrote in French. I read from a 1966 Penguin edition, which is a translation to English by Justin O’Brien. These stories are detailed, picturesque, expansive and very subtle. This book has to be read in quiet settings with a still mind. The settings of the stories go from deep in the Brazilian jungle to the deserts of Algeria to Spain and France. People, cultures, especially French and Algerian, Camus is a French-Algerian, faith and spirituality play a part in all the stories. Though the stories are simple on the surface, they go deep with multiple interpretations. I do not think I got most of the interpretations. I am getting to appreciate the stories a lot more by following the book discussion at BookTalk here. The book is just 152 pages, but it takes a lot of mental chewing. Good read, I should read more Camus.

An excerpt from The Growing Stone, the last story in the book which is set in Brazil:

The night was full of fresh aromatic scents. Above the forest the few stars in the austral sky, blurred by an invisible haze, were shining dimly. The humid air was heavy. Yet it seemed delightfully cool on coming out of the hut. D’Arrast climbed the slippery slope, staggering like a drunken man in the potholes. The forest, near by, rumbled slightly. The sound of the river increased. The whole continent was emerging from the night, and loathing overcame D’Arrast. It seemed to him that he would have liked to spew forth this whole country, the melancholy of its vast expanses, the glaucous light of its forests, and the nocturnal lapping of its big deserted rivers. This land was too vast, blood and seasons mingled here, and time liquefied. Life here was flush with the soil, and, to identify with it, one had to lie down and sleep for years on the muddy or dried-up ground itself. Yonder, in Europe, there was shame and wrath. Here, exile or solitude, among these listless and convulsive madmen who danced to die. But through the humid night, heavy with vegetable scents, the wounded bird’s outlandish cry, uttered by the beautiful sleeping girl, still reached his ears.

(Emphasis mine.)

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