Nicole's Reviews > Exile and the Kingdom

Exile and the Kingdom by Albert Camus
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's review
Nov 11, 2008

really liked it
Read in November, 2008

Not long before reading this book of short (and a couple not so short) stories, I read a novel (The Stranger) by the same author that wasn't terrible but featured a main character so disconnected from people that I had a hard time feeling connected to him or his story. These stories have quite a different feel from that novel. As a whole, they are more descriptive and observant and involved in the lives they feature, which invites the reader to get involved in these stories and take a personal interest in how they play out. They have heart, which may be what was lacking in L'Etranger.

The opening story is somewhat enigmatic, perhaps the most so of the batch. There is longing and dissatisfaction, but not as explicitly as the title suggests. Here I like that this couple's unhappiness (or happiness) is so settled-in and ordinary, just little things about each other that they've either grown accustomed to or haven't in the years of their marriage.

In all honesty, I am fairly certain I didn't "get" the second story. It had few elements I could relate to and veered into some dark and uncomfortable places. Memorable perhaps, but not in a good way.

I loved the close quarters the reader shared with the work crew in "The Silent Men." This one struck me as particularly well-structured, framed by Yvars's rides to and from work, all the present action takes place in a single workday, conflict is simple but is built up consistently and effectively.

"The Guest" had some lovely elements, compassion and the best intentions full of heart being foiled by innocence or simplicity or perhaps just communication barriers. However, this wasn't one of the really strong stories of the collection for me, transitions between scenes or stages of the story felt abrupt, coarsely handled.

The one about the artist was long and a little tedious at times, but the overall arc it sustains feels pretty successful. I love that the artist attributes so much to his "lucky" star, which adds an element of humor (or is this irony?) into what otherwise feels like a straightforward individual history. It also seems to be (or at least I hope it is) playing with some of the stereotypes surrounding visual art and artists. Complex, enjoyable.

"The Growing Stone" was also long, and had interesting moments but generally felt less successful to me than the long story immediately preceding it. There were seveal moments in this story that made me think the author was going to go in a specific direction with the story or the main character, but then that avenue would just be abandoned and left hanging there, which was somewhat annoying to see, especially in a short story. This could have been tighter and shorter. Also, I feel like there was something big and significant in a symbolic way going on at the end, or at least that's the tone in which it was presented, but what that symbolism was exactly was lost on me. This seems a risky way to end the last story of the book as that's the last thing the reader's left with.

Though the quality was a little variable, this was a very good collection and worth a read.

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