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“The unlikeliest twins”: the role of intertextual foregrounding and defamiliarisation in creating empathy in Meursault, contre-enquête

  • Tatyana Karpenko-Seccombe EMAIL logo

Abstract

Kamel Daoud’s debut novel Meursault, contre-enquête is a recasting of Camus’ seminal novel, L’Étranger. Daoud creates an overt and deliberate set of intertextual references to Camus’ text by describing the same events from the point of view of the brother of the nameless ‘Arab’ murdered by Meursault in L’Étranger. Thus the differences in character and event presentation are defamiliarised and foregrounded. This article argues that such intertextual foregrounding and defamiliarisation has implications for reader identification with the characters and related empathetic responses. Using a corpus-assisted stylistic analysis of the original French texts, the article illustrates these implications by analysing the ways the language of Daoud’s novel may contribute to alternation between readers’ empathy and antipathy towards its characters.


Corresponding author: Tatyana Karpenko-Seccombe, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK, E-mail:

Appendix 1: Keywords of Meursault, contre-enquête, with L’Étranger as the reference corpus. Minimum frequency 10, keyness score calculated by Sketch Engine using the simple maths method

Word Frequency Frequency per million
Focus Reference Focus Reference Score
1 Moussa 142 0 2,994.33 0.00 2,995.3
2 héros 50 0 1,054.34 0.00 1,055.3
3 meriem 35 0 738.04 0.00 739.0
4 hadjout 27 0 569.34 0.00 570.3
5 indépendance 26 0 548.26 0.00 549.3
6 prénom 25 0 527.17 0.00 528.2
7 cadavre 22 0 463.91 0.00 464.9
8 Scène 21 0 442.82 0.00 443.8
9 Bar 19 0 400.65 0.00 401.6
10 regarde 18 0 379.56 0.00 380.6
11 ha 18 0 379.56 0.00 380.6
12 guerre 17 0 358.48 0.00 359.5
13 joseph 15 0 316.30 0.00 317.3
14 meurtrier 15 0 316.30 0.00 317.3
15 immense 14 0 295.22 0.00 296.2
16 vendredi 13 0 274.13 0.00 275.1
17 sauf 13 0 274.13 0.00 275.1
18 jure 13 0 274.13 0.00 275.1
19 traces 13 0 274.13 0.00 275.1
20 fit 12 0 253.04 0.00 254.0
21 larquais 12 0 253.04 0.00 254.0
22 colons 12 0 253.04 0.00 254.0
23 fantôme 12 0 253.04 0.00 254.0
24 quatorze 12 0 253.04 0.00 254.0
25 zoudj 11 0 231.95 0.00 233.0
26 citronnier 11 0 231.95 0.00 233.0
27 française 11 0 231.95 0.00 233.0
28 fut 11 0 231.95 0.00 233.0
29 maquis 10 0 210.87 0.00 211.9
30 voisins 10 0 210.87 0.00 211.9
31 raconte 10 0 210.87 0.00 211.9
32 martyr 10 0 210.87 0.00 211.9
33 commis 10 0 210.87 0.00 211.9
34 pense 10 0 210.87 0.00 211.9
35 frère 84 2 1,771.29 50.51 34.4
36 parfois 29 1 611.52 25.26 23.3
37 langue 28 1 590.43 25.26 22.5
38 propre 27 1 569.34 25.26 21.7
39 livres 24 1 506.08 25.26 19.3
40 étrange 22 1 463.91 25.26 17.7
41 famille 22 1 463.91 25.26 17.7
42 français 41 2 864.56 50.51 16.8
43 livre 60 3 1,265.21 75.77 16.5
44 assassin 19 1 400.65 25.26 15.3
45 amour 18 1 379.56 25.26 14.5
46 tombe 18 1 379.56 25.26 14.5
47 semble 17 1 358.48 25.26 13.7
48 écrire 16 1 337.39 25.26 12.9
49 morts 16 1 337.39 25.26 12.9
50 vivant 16 1 337.39 25.26 12.9
51 te 84 6 1,771.29 151.54 11.6
52 époque 28 2 590.43 50.51 11.5
53 feu 13 1 274.13 25.26 10.5
54 connais 13 1 274.13 25.26 10.5
55 souviens 37 3 780.21 75.77 10.2
56 pays 48 4 1,012.17 101.03 9.9
57 trace 11 1 231.95 25.26 8.9
58 absurde 11 1 231.95 25.26 8.9
59 disparu 20 2 421.74 50.51 8.2
60 ton 85 9 1,792.38 227.31 7.9
61 raconter 18 2 379.56 50.51 7.4
62 meurtre 32 4 674.78 101.03 6.6
63 arbres 16 2 337.39 50.51 6.6
64 parle 16 2 337.39 50.51 6.6
65 tué 45 6 948.91 151.54 6.2
66 ni 49 7 1,033.25 176.79 5.8
67 besoin 14 2 295.22 50.51 5.8
68 ah 14 2 295.22 50.51 5.8
69 veux 26 4 548.26 101.03 5.4
70 écrit 13 2 274.13 50.51 5.3
71 années 38 6 801.30 151.54 5.3
72 peur 19 3 400.65 75.77 5.2
73 as 19 3 400.65 75.77 5.2
74 impossible 12 2 253.04 50.51 4.9
75 notre 70 12 1,476.08 303.08 4.9
76 alger 29 5 611.52 126.28 4.8
77 histoire 85 15 1,792.38 378.85 4.7
78 lire 17 3 358.48 75.77 4.7
79 retrouvé 17 3 358.48 75.77 4.7
80 crime 39 7 822.39 176.79 4.6
81 soudain 11 2 231.95 50.51 4.5
82 veut 11 2 231.95 50.51 4.5
83 eh 11 2 231.95 50.51 4.5
84 vérité 16 3 337.39 75.77 4.4
85 mort 99 20 2,087.59 505.13 4.1
86 dirait 10 2 210.87 50.51 4.1
87 enfants 10 2 210.87 50.51 4.1
88 tue 10 2 210.87 50.51 4.1
89 jouer 10 2 210.87 50.51 4.1
90 donc 49 10 1,033.25 252.56 4.1
91 Dieu 58 12 1,223.04 303.08 4.0
92 Arabe 47 10 991.08 252.56 3.9
93 Force 14 3 295.22 75.77 3.9
94 nom 37 8 780.21 202.05 3.8
95 toi 27 6 569.34 151.54 3.7
96 ville 27 6 569.34 151.54 3.7
97 fils 26 6 548.26 151.54 3.6
98 celui 26 6 548.26 151.54 3.6
99 chemin 13 3 274.13 75.77 3.6
100 murs 13 3 274.13 75.77 3.6

Appendix 2: First 25 words of the wordlist

Word Frequency Frequency per million
1 moussa 142 2,994.32765
2 mort 99 2087.59463
3 mère 90 1897.8133
4 deux 88 1855.63967
5 histoire 85 1792.37923
6 frère 84 1771.29241
7 monde 67 1,412.81657
8 jour 66 1,391.72975
9 livre 60 1,265.20886
10 corps 59 1,244.12205
11 dieu 58 1,223.03524
12 faire 57 1,201.94842
13 fait 56 1,180.86161
14 homme 55 1,159.77479
15 nuit 54 1,138.68798
16 héros 50 1,054.34072
17 vie 50 1,054.34072
18 pays 48 1,012.16709
19 arabe 47 991.08028
20 femme 46 969.99346
21 tué 45 948.90665
22 yeux 43 906.73302
23 sorte 43 906.73302
24 crois 42 885.64621
25 dit 41 864.55939

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Published Online: 2023-10-06
Published in Print: 2023-10-26

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