Algerian author Kamel Daoud spends most of his time in the city of Oran. The author of Meursault, Counter-Investigation, which united the political and social life of his country, in love with Albert Camus, tells about his city.
From our special correspondent in Oran,
“Oran is all the bad tastes of East and West together,” said Albert Camus, who grew up in Algiers. The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957 was especially resident in Oran between January 1941 and July 1942 due to his second marriage. His novel La Pestese takes place entirely in this port city, in northwestern Algeria.
He gives this city a very negative description. “We are in a city without trees, without pigeons and without gardens”. His life at that time was financially complicated, he had just been expelled from the Algerian Communist Party and felt isolated and cramped in the community in Oran. “I’m tired of Oran and everything,” he wrote to a friend.
A slightly kitsch town Unlike Albert Camus, the author Kamel Daoud, born in Mesra, a small village near Mostaganem, dedicates a real cult to the town of Oran. In October 2013, his novel Meursault, contre-Enquête, was released, inspired by L’Étranger by Albert Camus: the narrator is really the brother of the “Arab” who was killed by Meursault.
“For me, Oran is above all the Mediterranean. What I like about this city is its old-fashioned side, a bit kitsch, with a very Haussmannian city center, and this remnant of Spanish, North African, French, etc. crossover culture. I like it a lot, says the former editor-in-chief of Quotidien d’Oran. “It’s a Mediterranean city where decadence is still exquisite, a kind of Cuba without Castro.”
“I can not be away from Oran for too long” Oran, nicknamed “la radieuse”, is Algeria’s second largest city. The city was founded in 902 by the Andalusians and is known for a number of Arab-Berber dynasties. In the old town, the ancients of Oran speak Spanish. In the evening you can stroll along the sea which has a magnificent view of the Mediterranean, the mountain Murdjadjo and the fort Santa Cruz.
“The inhabitants of Oran are very different from the other inhabitants of the country. They have the reputation of being party animals, more open, more playful, compared to Algiers who have a more political vocation. A friend found the best explanation. He says that Oran was occupied by the Spaniards for three centuries, Algiers by the Ottomans for three centuries, this leaves for the Algiers a culture of barracks and a sense of celebration among the Oran people, says Kamel Daoud.
“I can not be away from Oran for too long, the author admits. I miss the sky, the light and the dust. It is a whole. We live in the land of our imagination, Oran is a part of myself. I could go into exile elsewhere , but necessarily on the shores of the Mediterranean.
“I hope the Oran will open up to the rest of the world” The historic district of Sidi El Houari, also known as “Les Bas Quartiers”, is considered the “old Oran”, famous city: Arabic, Spanish, Ottoman and French.
The town hall in Oran (Renaissance style) and the two bronze lions originate from the third republic. Camus thought they were ugly! Construction was completed in 1888 with the installation of two animal statues by the sculptor Auguste Cain (1889). Before independence in 1962, the city was predominantly European.
“I hope that Oran will open up to the rest of the world. It has a magnificently abandoned architectural heritage. We have an island culture and I would like Oran to be the port again ”, hopes Kamel Daoud who is currently writing a novel where his favorite city will be one of the characters.
For Kamel Daoud, visiting Algiers is not visiting Algeria. “You have to see something else, other faces. The whole rest of the country is inhabited and habitable ”. If Camus did not like Oran, it is not surprising in Kamel Daoud’s eyes. “He was a bit like all the algae. I do not like algae very much. We get it right.” Algiers-Oran is a bit like Paris-Marseille.
This does not prevent Kamel Daoud from appreciating the author of The Stranger more than anyone else. “He did not give in to the chimeras of his time. He is an independent man and can not be forgiven, neither in France nor in Algeria,” concludes Kamel Daoud.