Exile and the Kingdom

by Albert Camus

Other authorsJustin O'Brien (Translator)
Paperback, 1958





Vintage Books (1958), Edition: Reprint


These six stories, written at the height of Camus' artistic powers, all depict people at decisive, revelatory moments in their lives. Translated by Justin O'Brien.

User reviews

LibraryThing member baswood
If anyone doubted Camus creative revival in the 1950's with the publication of [The Fall] then they had only to pick up [Exile and the Kingdom] published one year later in 1957 to once again appreciate a novelist whose artistry and power places him amongst the forefront of 20th century writers. [Exile and the Kingdom] is a collection of six short stories that are arranged in such a way, that allow Camus to develop his theme of exile through each of his characters who are individuals out of step and therefore exiled from those around them and who are searching to find acceptance in some other place. In the final story "The Growing Stone" the French engineer D'Arrast may have found such a place when a family of a primitive Brazilian tribe ask him to 'Sit down with us': the final words of the final story and a truly satisfying end to the collection. In the mid 1950's Camus; a French Algerian was acutely aware of his exile from his native Algeria at a time when the country was embroiled in a desperate revolution against it's colonial rulers and Camus found himself unable to support the Arab Nationalists or their French rulers.

The Adulterous Wife Camus heroes were very rarely women but in this story he tells us of Janine who is accompanying her French husband in the wider areas of North Africa. He is trying to make his living selling cloth to Arab dealers in remote oasis towns. The desert conditions are intolerable and the couple are faced with a proud people who have little respect for the French merchants. Janine in spite of herself is drawn towards the native Africans and slips out of her hotel room at night to retrace the steps that she took earlier in day with her reluctant husband when they climbed to the top of an old fort and Janine saw a campment of nomads. Her night trip is perilous, but she finally gets back to the top of the fort where she has an experience that is sublime.

The Renegade or A Confused Mind is written in the first person and uses a stream of conscious technique to tell in flashbacks the story of a renegade missionary who is held captive by a primitive desert tribe. He is hiding in an outcrop of rocks and he has a rifle with him and is waiting for the next missionary to make an appearance. The renegade we learn has been captured by the tribe, tortured and horribly mutilated and is now completely under their power. Camus skilfully uses modernist techniques to portray a man confused in mind and body and viscerally places the reader inside the character who suffers appallingly. A tour de force.

The Voiceless Although again set in North Africa this story has a very different feel to the others. We first encounter Yvars on his daily bicycle ride to work. Yvars is feeling his age and the reluctance that he feels about his journey today is because he and his workmates have been on strike for a few weeks and have been forced to go back to work without achieving any of their objectives. Camus takes us inside the workshop where the men are making barrels and we follow their uneasy relationship with the boss of the factory who is trying to mend fences. The men refuse to speak to him, but that day the bosses daughter is suddenly taken ill and an ambulance is called. This is a story about changing relationships and of things lost that can never be regained.

The Guest We are in a remote schoolroom in the mountains of Algeria. The schoolmaster; Daru notices two men slowly climbing the mountain towards him, one of the men he knows; a Gendarme who has with him an Arab prisoner. The Gendarme says there has been an uprising and he must get back to headquarters and he instructs Daru to take the prisoner onto regional headquarters where he is to stand trial for murder. Daru and the Arab spend an uncomfortable night together and in the morning Daru has to decide what to do with the Arab, who has resolutely rejected the opportunity to escape that Daru has given him. Daru a lonely exile in a hostile country faces a choice of where he belongs.

Jonas, or the Artist at Work Another change of pace for this story of an Artist who follows his star. He is only interested in his painting, but his fortunate upbringing and his supportive wife and friends allow him to follow his muse. He becomes fashionably famous and Camus has great fun in describing the hordes of admirers that flock to his strangely cramped apartment to be with the artist of the moment. Jonas is a benevolent man to the extent that he works hard not to upset anybody, he is a caring family man whose only regret it seems is that he no longer has much time to paint. He eventually becomes unfashionable has a sort of breakdown and in a last desperate attempt to find space to work he builds himself a mezzanine in one of his large rooms. His muse returns just so that he can at last paint his masterpiece and after days in isolation on his ledge he produces his final canvas.

The Growing Stone A story that is a fitting end to this collection. D'Arrast after a perilous journey arrives at a primitive Brazilian village in the forest where he has been commissioned to build a dam. He is welcomed by the local dignitaries, but seeks his own friends among the working men of the village. He befriends a cook who tells him that he has a price to pay for a stroke of good fortune that saved his life. He must perform a prodigious feet of strength at a religious ceremony to be held in the village the next day. D'Arrast is invited to observe as the villagers whip themselves up into a drug and alcohol infused celebration and D'Arrast finds he becomes inextricably involved in the culture of this strange society.

Camus short stories immediately plunge the reader into his characters situation usually with a description of a challenging environment; he uses the motif of a journey, sometimes in extreme conditions. "The Adulterous Wife" starts with a difficult journey on a local bus through a sandstorm in North Africa and you can almost feel the sand in your hair, Yvas bicycle ride to work on the morning that the strike has been broken is full of nostalgia for a lost youth and remembrance of past journeys when the ride gave him so much pleasure. D'Arrast's journey through the Brazilian rain forest at night in the shadowy wet, sliding down to the river crossing. Then there is the immediacy of the Renegades torture in the mud hut of his captors and Daru's uncomfortable night with the Arab in the schoolroom, these are events full of atmosphere, of trepidation, but above all of realism. The stories are perfectly shaped, with hardly a wasted word and although the endings rarely resolve a situation and throw up as many questions as answers they all feel just right. There are similarities to some of the stories but they each have an individual character of their own, the similarities are because of the themes that link them together; all the heroes are men and women in exile of one kind or another, they are all searching for something different or for times past, their present situation is unsatisfying, they crave for a new kind of freedom and yet they are all sympathetic to their environment. They are looking for the kingdom. This is a wonderful set of stories with not a weak one in the collection, all will linger with me and so a Five star rating.
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LibraryThing member devon.valenzuela
There are many lessons ready to be absorbed from Albert Camus’s works in Exile and the Kingdom; one lesson I took a particular interest in is to simply look around you. This was learned by d’Arrast, a French engineer tasked with building a dam in South America. He didn’t need to socialize with the people there, especially the cook when they became friends; the cook and others in the small town in South America wanted d’Arrast to stay, and the engineer considered it, but Camus wrote no more of d’Arrast to let the reader decide his fate. In another story, Jonas, or The Artist at Work, the main character (Jonas, if you haven’t guessed it) was a successful painter, until he loses his talent, and shells himself into a loft in his apartment. He was meditating for days without food and water, relying solely on his “star” that will let him bless canvases with his imagination as he did before. Unfortunately, this restricted access to him from his family and friends. Eventually, Jonas was rescued from his hole, and his new work was discovered, “…it was hard to tell whether it should be read as independent or interdependent.” The lesson from this is to cherish all that you have and not rely on purely on miracles as Jonas did.
The stories also gave me knowledge on other cultures. One that I noticed particularly was in THE ADULTEROUS WIFE, with the Arabs looking proud and wearing different clothes. The women weren’t presented to the world and there were nomadic encampments. Religion played a big role in two of the stories, The Renegade, or A Confused Mind, and The Growing Stone. In the first, the setting was in Algeria in a small, desolate village filled with people that worship evil and live only to the brink of death. In the latter story, Christianity is celebrated in different manner than the average Sunday mass, through dance the Southern Americans worship a statue of Jesus Christ found in a river.
These stories aren’t for those seeking adventure or for those who wish to discuss their political views upon the world. These stories were written for the readers that want to learn ways to improve themselves, or even to help view other parts of the world, the other side of people. I would recommend this book to those that want to learn how to look around and gaze at beauty.
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LibraryThing member TakeItOrLeaveIt
Perhaps it was the recent translation by Carol Cosman that fell flat, or the fact that Camus wrote this collection of short stories seventeen years after “The Stranger” but the witty and maddening voice of Camus I am so familiar with seemed lacking in Exile and the Kingdom. Reading this was like being on an opiate, going in and out of consciousness without having a grasp on what is a real sensation or a mysterious delusion. The final story of the six vignettes, ‘The Growing Stone’ seemed to apply most to my life, a man exiles himself to a savage island where he is caught between lordships and commoners, and despite making friends with both parties when participating in their activities he doesn’t lose himself in the modern dance like the residents of the island do, yet isn’t content having a formal lunch with the mayor either. In the final two stories Camus introduces the idea of love in a way unlike any other author, both in a homoerotic and endearing way. For it is not Jonas’ wife, the artist who exiles himself to a darkened attic that tells him she loves him, but his friend who hands him the canvas on which he commits his final work. And it is not the mayor nor the female dancers of the hut but the cook d’Arrast makes friends with aptly named Socrates, who despite knowing d”Arrast will never be one of them, submits his love to him. Camus is undeniably a genius but Cosman is most likely not his best translator.… (more)
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
A good collection of short stories, told with Camus' characteristic deep thought and meaning.
LibraryThing member bennbell
I just finished reading the short story collection, The Exile and the Kingdom, by Albert Camus. Of the six stories in the collection my favorite two are the Growing Stone and The Guest, closely followed by The Adulterous Woman. I read the Guest in high school and can't say that I understood it much except on a superficial level. I got much more out of it this go round. I really liked the Growing Stone which has almost a mystical quality to it and multiple layers of meaning. Camus continues to be one of my favorite authors and thinkers and has had and continues to have a tremendous influence on my life.… (more)
LibraryThing member everfresh1
The short stories are somewhat uneven in quality but there are some masterpieces. I loved 'The Adulterous Woman' and 'The Artist at Work'.
LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
There is an atmosphere in Camus' stories which sticks with the reader long after finishing them – sometimes of the scene, sometimes of the mood, and occasionally of both. In this collection of short stories we have one of his most brutal, intense, and inhuman tales he has written alongside some of the more human and generous of feeling.
As a writer of shorter short stories (6 here span 150 pages) Camus is at least equal in his abilities to his longer and more well known novellas or short novels. Here he shows his ability to create an atmosphere rich in psychological strain, convincing but distinctive characters, and a compelling tale, while taking it no further than is necessary to achieve the peculiar artistic, philosophical, or psychological effect that he sought to express.
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LibraryThing member kirstiecat
I haven't read Camus in a long long time and before that, only The Stranger which I think everyone has read. Camus is, of course, an exceptional writer but the strength in this collection is within each story and the variety of each. It's also in the fact that the stories themselves are so unique and memorable that their presence stays with you even when you wish you could leave them behind in a sense (the image of a man without a tongue being tortured for example isn't something I'd like to dream about on a pleasant afternoon.) Camus is quite adept at creating not just characters but engaging situations to place them in as well as sometimes incredibly vivid metaphors that may not even be quite obvious at first as in the case of his first story, "The Adulterous Woman." He also creates a certain kind of landscape in other stories-"The Guest" and telling a story of a life in "The Artist at Work," which was definitely my favorite of the collection. What becomes overwhelmingly clear is his grasp of humans as much as his understanding of the sense of a personal story, whether it be one of doubt and searching or one of tragedy and it is this theme that unites them all in a unique sort of exile.… (more)



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