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But he had to acknowledge that however imperfect the workings of the legal system may be, this kind of thing does not happen very often. So he set up a plot in which something relatively unimportant happens: one in which an Arab gets shot in a brawl. He then wrote the story in such a way as to minimise the importance of such an event, and was able to do so primarily as a result of his own racialism. It would have been fairly unusual in such a situation, as Conor Cruise O'Brien observed, for a European to be sentenced to death for shooting a native.
It is set in Algeria, in the coastal city of Oran, presented by Camus in one of his essays, Le Minotaure ou la halte d'Oran (The Minotaur or the Halt at Oran, 1940), as the commercial and sporting rival of Algiers. 62 The natural world also plays a very similar and equally ambivalent role. In L'Etranger, it is the sun, sea and wind, the objects of Meursault's enthusiasm, which are presented as making him shoot the Arab. In La Peste, the sun and wind are most frequently depicted as helping the spread of the plague.
I t is only occasionally that he illustrates the other meaning which the title L 'Etranger has in French and is a stranger to himself. He gets on well with the other people in his immediate circle, who value his company and appreciate the fact that he doesn't talk very much. He has none of the nostalgia for the higher, spiritual values which makes Christians so unhappy with things as they are. Being able to sleep a lot, with what Meursault specifically describes as 'un sommeil leger et sans reves' (a light, dreamless sleep), is not necessarily a symptom of a desire to escape from reality.