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You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question.

Albert Camus


This week’s story is The Guest, by Albert Camus. Camus was a French philosopher, author, and journalist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957 at age 44. He grew up in Algiers, and this story is about life in a French Colony. His philosophy defended truth, moderation, and justice while rejecting the dogmatic aspects of Christianity and Marxism.


The Guest in this story is a man, known simply as the Arab, who is a prisoner of the French authorities for killing a relative. The local equivalent of the sheriff drops the prisoner off with the school teacher, as the school is closed due to bad weather. The teacher, Daru, is ordered to take the Arab to another city in the morning.

Daru is a moral man who has to face a decision. Does he take the prisoner, who is charged with murder, to meet the courts? Daru, after all, is a school teacher. The sheriff has no authority to order Daru to do anything. But Camus makes us endure Daru’s dilemma, and we can see all the choices he is faced with. The school teacher must make a decision, and we are thoroughly in Daru’s head as he opts to do what he believes is right.

I liked this story, although it was pretty foreign to me as someone who has never lived in a colony. Camus is skilled at letting the ready know the thoughts and emotions of all his characters in subtle ways: the look of an eye, the movement of a body, how clothing is worn.