Late Night Library is an example of technology helping build and expand the imaginative landscape of books. Have you seen it? The podcasts are terrific. The books they choose to discuss are new and intellectually rigorous. I was thrilled to be involved in the most recent discussion of The Meursault Investigation, Kamel Daoud’s reprise of Camus’ Stranger.
In preparing for the interview — and my conversation with John Cullen, the novel’s translator — it struck me that the novel fit well within a group of books where a “classic” of Western colonial literature is interrogated and recast, often by a subsidiary character from the original book. This is a category that arguably began — in the mainstream — in 1966, when Jean Rhys’, Wide Sargasso Sea, was published. It includes many books, including this year’s remarkable and wondrous Land of Love and Drowning, Tiphanie Yanique’s counter-narrative to Herman Wouk’s novel of the Virgin Islands, Don’t Stop the Carnival.
There is something very powerful about characters coming alive in this particular way; it says something about the role that literature can play in the lives of the people who read it — especially in the minds of writers. Books can define our experience of the world. The Meursault Investigation — published by terrific, New York-based independent publisher Other Press — is an example of Algerian writers taking back the imaginative space that was originally snatched by Camus.
My conversation with Amber Keller ranges over these, and other topics. It was fun to record this show in the studio, and I hope it will be a good listen, as well, in its free podcast format.