Albert Camus, L'Etranger / The Stranger 1958 / 2011
Asked about giving a talk about Alber Camus, I got the idea to engage in a book destruction with an French copy of L'Etranger from the year 1957, published just after Camus won the Nobel price in Literature. This coincided with the period of the Algerien Independce war (1954 - 1962) Camus opposed so fiercely. The novel published in 1942 - another war year - is world famous for its 'human condition' and its 'existentialsms' and had a stunning effect on me as well when I red it age 15 or so. Camus was next to Rainer Maria Rilke the first author of whom I read all books in German print while still a teenager.
Many years later, when I discovered the writings of Edward Saids in 1990 my world was again put upside down. Coming from Europe with a master in philosophy and history Said, Gayatri Spivak, Stuart Hall and many others opened my eye on question of Eurocentrism, Orientalism, and post-Coloniallism and forced me to question and reorganize everything I have learned before. Said, with whom I had to change to audit some of his seminars at Columbia University, published a fundamental critique of Camus, published in 1993 in a collection of texts entitled 'Culture and Imperialism.' In this book, Said shows how the colonial context was fundamental to Camus and that it was no accident that only French protagonists have names but not any Arabs. The main plot is about the shooting dead of an Arab without any reason, without any appology.
The location chosen was the residence of Dominique Kahn Strauss who was accused of having raped a hotel maid. He was held there in custody and paid a fortune for rent, the police detail and other costs while waiting for his trail. the hotel maid who accused him was found untrustworthy since she lied on her immigration papers and changed detaiils while renarrating her case. DNA evidence was found on her clothing. DSK was claiming that it was consenual sex. The case against him was dismissed. the fact that DKS has other accusations of similar accusations of rape didn't taint his reputation in this case.
Book destructions have been part of my work for over 10 years and should remind us of our violent past when these destructive acts are not symbolic but understood as real.
here I get stopped by a police offier and a plain cloth officer who then grapped me on the arm and pushed me away, giving me the underdestanding that this here was for 'real'....