The exile and the empire

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Exile and the Empire ( French L'Exil et le royaume ) is a collection of short stories by the French writer and philosopher Albert Camus , published in 1957 .


From 1952 Albert Camus worked on the templates for some short stories that he wanted to publish under the title Novellen des Exils . Also , the case should appear in this collection, was published but extensive and therefore separately. In 1957 the entire version was completed and was named L'Exil et le royaume . In this work, however, one did not find the unequivocal moralist who clarified his message in epic narratives, rather Camus presented his theses on coping with existence in everyday situations. The work is thus divided into Camus' existentialist philosophy, which he turns towards a philosophy of the absurd turns.

“One day there will be nothing more to be admired, everything is known, all life passes in repetition. It is the time of exile , of arid life, of the dead soul ”, Albert Camus commented on his work in 1953.


The collection includes six short stories: The Adulteress , The Apostate or a Confused Mind , The Mute , The Guest , Jonas or the Artist at Work, and The Driving Stone .

In the preface to his collection, Camus himself describes the unifying element of the short stories with regard to their title as follows: “A single theme [...] that of exile has been dealt with six times in different ways, from the inner monologue to the realistic Narrative. [...] As far as the kingdom is concerned, which is also spoken of in the title, it coincides with a certain, free and naked life that we have to find again in order to finally be reborn. Exile shows us the way in its own way - on the one condition that we are able to reject both bondage and possession. "

With the "exile" is meant the imprisonment of humans in a wrong and restrictive environment, in a society with its conventions and norms. The “empire”, on the other hand, represents the state of contentment in freedom and knowledge. The wild, unknown and overwhelming land with its mysterious inhabitants shows the heroes of some novels a better, truer life and thus causes a radical upheaval that opens up new horizons for them.

The adulteress

Janine, the “adulteress”, accompanies her enterprising husband on a business trip through Algeria. Her life situation is described in a relaxed sequence of thoughts and descriptions: Married to a man who was just offering himself because he loved her and gave her the feeling of being needed.

Despite all efforts of Janine's husband, the business trip remains unsuccessful. On a cold desert night, she visits the ruins of an abandoned fort, which is located on a nearby hill, and experiences an erotic experience of nature.

This first novella already takes up captivity in norms and conventions: The encounter with the vastness of nature in the form of the original Sahara makes the "adulteress" her relationship problems clear: The stale climate, the daily routine and the fake contact become her here, in a cold desert night, consciously for the first time as the wear and tear of their marriage.

But this short and deep connection with the realm of nature has no lasting sustainability and cannot help Janine to rearrange her life in exile. Compared to nature, one's own being is too meaningless for that. So she has no choice but to appease her husband, who notices the tears upon her return.

The apostate or a confused mind

A Catholic missionary who has always understood religion as a means of triumphant oppression wants to convert the barbaric inhabitants of the salt city of Taghâza, who embody the negative, destructive principle. After he was apprehended, imprisoned and tortured by the masters of the city, he recognized the humanistic-Christian principles as always unreached and inferior to the power of evil, so that all hope of their feasibility left him. He himself now becomes an avowed fanatical supporter of barbarism, violence and destruction. Despite this ideal change, his slavish submission to his own ideals remains. Now he longs for the rule of the law of anti-humanism he has raised and even ambushes his successor to shoot him.

The thoughts of the mad missionary revolve around his own recent past. A past in which he did not convert the "savages", but began to worship their fetish, the god of suffering and destruction. After all, he feels the chaos and pain as overwhelming and longs for the end of the world.

This second story is a tirade of hatred for everything human in a person who is finally shut up with salt by his new masters. Because ultimately there is no place for him in the universe of inhumanity either. Here the most extreme situation of exile is described, in which there is no longer any possibility of entering the Reich.

The mute

This novella describes the time after the cooperative strike and its failure and thus at the same time the internal and social conflicts with changed conditions or circumstances and demands, the conflict between compassion, peer pressure and the new situation.

After their failed strike, workers at a cooperage refuse to speak to their boss. This is a silent agreement between the beaten, who are dependent on this job despite being snubbed. When the boss's daughter falls ill, there seems to be a new possibility and moral necessity of communication. But even in this situation, the threat from fate and nature, the boss is excluded from the ethical demand for cohesion, harmony and community. The coopers are in exile because the boss has made it clear that they are "actually" no longer needed; but this also meant that the boss was "expelled from the country" and is no longer entitled to participate. The boss's conciliatory tones when he wanted to explain the situation are dismissed as a "bluff". Camus shows man's speechlessness and inability to relate to opposing interests and the incompatibility between willing and able.

The experiences of the social struggles during Camus' childhood flow into "The Mute".

The guest

A captured Arab is handed over to the teacher Daru by a gendarme friend of his. He is supposed to transfer him to the nearby village, which Daru refuses. The gendarme leaves furiously, Daru houses the Arab and is faced with the choice of viewing him as a criminal or as a human. Daru opts for the latter, removes his bonds and gives him the opportunity to flee, even encouraging him to do so, as he feels disturbed in his peace. The Arab remains, however. The next morning Daru leads him to a waypoint where the Arab should decide for himself whether he goes into the village to face himself or whether he returns to his people as a free person. To Daru's astonishment, he decides to go to prison. When Daru returned home, he saw the message, “You delivered our brother over. You will atone for that ”written on the board in his house. Daru is in social exile in his beloved homeland.

Camus himself can be recognized in the teacher Daru, who during the Algerian war of liberation sympathized with the efforts of the Algerian population to emancipate, but also criticized them and always tried to calm the situation with moral appeals. Like Daru, Camus has been severely criticized for his position between the fronts.

Jonas or the artist at work

Jonas is a man who succeeds in everything. When he got into art one day, he quickly became famous. But soon he is swallowed by a whale, similar to the biblical Jonah, of his extra-artistic "obligations". He gets entangled in an artistic "business" and sells his works at a fixed price to a dealer who has acquired the right to all future works. The bourgeois art business sterilizes him so that he no longer has a social mandate to fulfill, miss or refuse. After all, he always becomes his own and builds a small shed for himself in which he retreats to paint. He spends more and more time there and eventually lives up there. His social contacts break off just as quickly as his reputation. When he left the pen after a while, he was completely exhausted and emaciated; his “great work” is a white canvas on which he has written “solitaire” (lonely, alone) or “solidaire” (together) in indistinct letters.

First Jonas is driven into artistic exile by his fame, then into social exile by his work. His last, “great” work describes the inner situation of the exhausted artist who may have entered the Reich after completing his life's work.

Here, too, you can find Camus himself, who vacillated between increasing reputation and increasing uncertainty about his writer's block.

The driving stone

The French engineer D'Arrast is on the way to Iguape, where he is supposed to build a dam to protect a settlement from flooding. D'Arrast is a person who is looking for something. This can be seen in the fact that he keeps his dealings with the upscale and important personalities short and objective, but tries again and again to come into contact with the common population. But the gap that his personality and position bring with them is too great, so that he always receives special treatment and does not have access to the normal population.

One day he made the acquaintance of a ship's cook who was able to save himself ashore after the sinking of his ship and now wants to take a mighty stone to church in a penitential procession in praise of God as thanks. He asks D'Arrast's assistance, who, ignorant of what is meant, agrees. On the day of the procession, however, he looks down from the balcony of a city official at the procession and the mariner's ordeal. The cook collapses with the stone shortly before the church and can no longer carry it. D'Arrast now gives up his privileged position and takes the stone on himself. But instead of carrying him to church, he brings him to the cook's house. Initially not let in, he is now asked to join the group with the words "Sit down with us!"

D'Arrast's way into the kingdom follows in an ascending line in his search for security and home: The active participation is his attempt at solidarity, after he has not found authentic life, connection or home anywhere and now wants to integrate and feel belonging in this way . Initially impossible and only achievable when the barriers to class are lifted by the holy holiday procession and D'Arrast can appear as an ordinary person - as a whole person. This act leads D'Arrast into the kingdom, since he takes part in the absurd fate of all people and thus makes a strong commitment to human community.


  • L'Exil et le royaume . Paris, Gallimard, 1957.
  • Exile and the Reich , translated from the French by Guido G. Meister, Hamburg, Rowohlt, 1958.