Jason Herbeck, chair and professor of French in the Department of World Languages, recently published an article, “L’Histoire passée sous silence ? Pour un état des lieux d’une relation (coloniale) muette dans ‘La Femme adultère’ (A Silenced History? Revisiting a Muted (Colonial) Relationship In Albert Camus’s ‘The Adulterous Woman’),” in Présence D’Albert Camus, the journal devoted to the Franco-Algerian Nobel Laureate in Literature best known for his novel, “L’Étranger (The Stranger).”
Herbeck’s article, can be summarized as follows:
Regardless of whether or not Camus was indeed influenced in his writing by the colonial myth, the general absence of the Arab in his works is nonetheless striking. For Edward Saïd, this perceived shortcoming can be attributed to the fact that, as a quixotic European, Camus could not fathom being separated from the Algerian landscape and thereby allowed himself to deny the Arabs in his works their legitimate, indigenous voice. This article proposes to expose these allegedly “lost voices” in “The Adulterous Woman” (1957, “Exile and the Kingdom”), in particular in the context of the eve of the Algerian War (1954-1962) during which the short story was written. In considering “The Misery of Kabylia,” Camus’s series of articles that appeared in Alger Républicain in 1939, alongside his 1957 story, we will illustrate how both texts chronicle the indigenous presence in Algeria and the precarious relationship that this population has with both the local colonial authorities and the short story’s fictional protagonists, who leave the Algerian coast to sell their wares directly to Arab merchants on the high plateaus to the South. By scrutinizing the Other, “that mute escort” in “The Adulterous Woman,” our analysis will demonstrate how the protagonists’ professional and personal trajectories in the story reveal in situ a preoccupying indigenous presence that is in fact difficult to ignore.