Tag: Robinson Crusoe

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

Posted September 12, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 2 Comments

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel DaoudTitle: The Meursault Investigation (Goodreads)
Author: Kamel Daoud
Translator: John Cullen
Published: Oneworld Publications, 2013
Pages: 143
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

One of the key components to philosophy is the ability to argue your point, this is done in many different ways and Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger does exactly that. Kamel Daoud took the same approach for his counterargument, with his novel The Meursault Investigation. This novel seemed to have taken the world by storm, winning the Goncourt du Premier Roman, the Prix des Cinq Continents, the Prix François Mauriac and shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt. It follows Harum seventy years after his brother Musa (the Arab) was killed by Meursault. Harum is reflecting back on his life and the impact Meursault’s story has had on himself, his family and Algeria.

Kamel Daoud’s response to The Stranger is basically saying that life is not absurd, it has meaning. Taking a life has consequences and execution is not simply a life for a life. Meursault killing the Arab had a big impact, and never referring to him by name allowed Camus to focus his story but at the risk of missing the bigger picture. So seventy years later, well after Algeria has declared their independence from France, the story of Meursault is still a topic of discussion.

First of all, the death of Musa has an impact on the life of Harum and his family. The Meursault Investigation starts off exploring the life of Harum and his mother and how the death of Musa effected them. The novel spirals out, first looking at the effect it had on Harum, then his mother and family and then finally Algeria. This may come across as repetitive but I think it was important to understand the impact.

I watched a lecture by Daoud that talks about The Stranger and comparing it to Robinson Crusoe. This is an exploration into post-colonialism; Meursault meets someone who was different to him and kills him. Robinson Crusoe did the same thing to Friday, just not physically; he forced him to convert to his idea of civilisation. That meant changing the way his acted, dressed and most of all his religious beliefs. The fact that Meursault killed an Arab on the beach could be symbolic of the island. If you follow this train of thought, The Meursault Investigation turns into a very complex philosophical argument, not only against The Stranger but the opinions of Western society (especially France) towards the raise of Islam.

The Meursault Investigation is an angry novel with some very deep philosophical ideas embedded into the pages. Published originally in French (translated by John Cullen) this novel evoked similar reactions for me as Submission by Michel Houellebecq in the way it explores France’s reaction to Islam. I understand people’s criticism about repetitive in The Meursault Investigation but I feel like it was necessary as Daoud needs to keep circling back to the death of the Arab and exploring how it affected everyone. This is the butterfly effect and I enjoyed every moment of this novel.


Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Posted November 18, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan SwiftTitle: Gulliver's Travels (Goodreads)
Author: Jonathan Swift
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1726
Pages: 362
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Jonathan Swift’s classic satire novel Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships was released in 1726 but in 1735 the title was amended simply to Gulliver’s Travels. The novel was popular not only because it was a parody on the popular “travellers’ tales” genre but as a satire on human nature. It later gained increase popularity in its abridged form as a classic in children’s literature.

It seems a little odd to me that many people have experienced Gulliver’s Travels as a children’s book. Comparing what I know from the abridged children’s book to the version I just read, it feels like a completely different book. The abridged version I believe only focuses on books 1 and 2 and all satire, allegory or symbolism has been stripped from it, which means the bulk of makes Jonathan Swift a great writer has been completely removed and only the fantastical elements remain. Other classics received a similar treatment to turn into a kids book including, Robinson Crusoe, The Thousand and One Nights (known as The Arabian Nights) and to a less extent Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

When reading a book like Gulliver’s Travels it is important to remember that Jonathan Swift deals heavily in irony. Take for example his essay ‘A Modest Proposal’ in which he suggests a solution to the population issue in Ireland. He suggested that we need to “regard people as commodities” and went on to say that “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.” This straight-faced proposal is a form of Juvenalian satire where Swift mocks the heartless attitudes the government has towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general.

Gulliver’s Travels’ satirical themes are very subtle but are typically directed towards moral, political, social and religious ideals. The main satirical themes I found within the novel focused on war, corruption in the laws and politics and the ignorance or arrogance of doctors. There is a lot of irony within the book, for example the term medical malpractice refers to ordinary medical practices and horrific carnage is meant to be extremely fun.

This is a book that comes with more layers than an onion; we could look at the travel novel as a genre, colonialism, and even the changes in Gulliver’s opinions and language over the course of the book. You could even read this as a rebuttal to Defoe’s optimistic account of human capability in Robinson Crusoe which was published seven years earlier. On the surface, you can look at Gulliver’s Travels as four different short stories but if you decide to explore it deeper you are heading down a rabbit hole you may never escape.

I have to admit I didn’t spend as much time as I should have and explored some of the ideas within this classic a little deeper. I was very aware that if I dug deeper I would be stuck reading this book for the rest of the year, maybe the next. I am fascinated by this book, I would love to dig deeper in the future but with the aid of a study guide or something similar. I will be reading this book again and I would like to encourage others to pick it up if they haven’t done it in the past. Swift really has a decent grasp on satire; so much so that we have the term Swiftian to refer to his satirical tone and pessimistic outlook in literature.


Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Posted February 10, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DefoeTitle: Robinson Crusoe (Goodreads)
Author: Daniel Defoe
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1719
Pages: 321
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When Robinson Crusoe gets shipwrecked on an island, everything changes for him. Now stuck on the island of despair, Crusoe has to learn how to survive. Daniel Defoe’s classic survival novel has been the inspiration for many stories to come. Most people know the story so I won’t go into too much detail summarising the book.

Some may disagree but I found that Defoe set out to shatter the misconceptions that Europeans had towards colonialism. When Robinson Crusoe lands on the island he adopts colonialism, as it is familiar to him and the political nature he recognises. You see the progression of this social structure from when Crusoe first found himself on the island. He built his shelter, farmed the lands and hunted. Then when other people were introduced, the social order fell into place, putting himself as lord and master. Others like Friday and his father were slaves, but the Spaniard and the Englishmen were treated completely differently.

Another theme I noticed while reading Robinson Crusoe was the idea of isolation; this was portrayed in a literal sense. Stuck on the island, Crusoe had so much time on his hand he spends it contemplating society, religion, politics and the world. What was interesting to note is the fact that there was no real mention of women in the book; there were some but none played a significant role. This detail is something I spent a lot of time contemplating, it felt like with all his reflections, women never were an important part of the world. I’m not sure what Defoe meant by this but I’m sure it is something worth investigating.

I found Robinson Crusoe fascinating; I was studying it for university so I had to look at what Daniel Defoe was trying to say about colonialism. However there is something that really annoyed me about the book and that is the way the writing style kept changing. It felt like Defoe wasn’t sure how he was writing the novel, switching between diary entries and first person narrative. It didn’t feel intentional just changing whenever it suited him and that, in turn, just felt sloppy.

Robinson Crusoe isn’t a great book; I’m glad I read it but it just isn’t something I can praise. It wasn’t a problem with the themes or the style; it just focused too much on survival and missed opportunities to explore other topics. Sure, this is a classic and you have to give a book credit for staying around so long, but Robinson Crusoe just wasn’t for me.


Monthly Review – January 2014

Posted January 31, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyHard to believe that the first month of 2014 is over, it has been amazing to see how much excitement people are having towards The Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my introductory post here. Most people were busy enjoying the reading challenge, so our group read, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, didn’t get talked about much, but from what I’ve read it has all be very positive.

I’ve been off to a flying start this year, I’ve read seven books which is surprising since I have no reading goal and I want to take my time with reading. Most of those books go towards the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge and you can find my own record of the challenge here. I’m thinking about trying to read two books for each genre this year and I’m keeping a record of every book and which genre it best fits into on that page as well, just to see which genres need more attention in my exploring.

Highlights of the month for me include; Books by Charlie Hill, 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, All That Is by James Salter, The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich and Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas. Also a special mention to my current literary obsession Gary Shteyngart; I read his memoir Little Failure and bought all his books (with the exception to Super Sad True Love Story, which I already owned), I hope to read all his books this year but I’m sure other books will get in the way. So what have you been reading this month?

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My Upcoming Reading List

Posted November 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in What are you Reading / 12 Comments

the sign of fourNext week I start a university course called Literature and Politics. I’m actually nervous and excited about starting this. I’ve been doing an English Literature course part time but work has been pretty full on so I’ve moved to online university. This will mean things will be a lot more flexible and should hopefully give me the time to manage both work and study without them interfering. What I wanted to share with you; the entire point of this post was my awesome reading list for the summer thanks to this course.

  • Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

How awesome it this list? So many great books that I’ve read or excited to read. A reading list like this really does wonders to your nerves.