The Pillar of Salt

About Episode

We discuss the classic 1953 novel by the Jewish Tunisian Francophone writer Albert Memmi, who died this year. This sharp and beautiful book is many things: a coming of age story, an account of colonialism, and a World War II novel. Its driven, unhappy narrator breaks with his community and family in search of a new identity but is disappointed again and again. Like Lot’s wife in the Bible, he cannot help looking back on the past he rejects. He asks: “is it possible for me to survive my contemplation of myself?”

Show Notes:

The Pillar of Salt, translated from the French by Edouard Roditi, is available as an e-book. Memmi also wrote The Colonizer and The Colonized, an account of Tunisia’s first year of independence, Tunisie, An I and numerous other books. 

We compared the book to Driss Chraibi’s The Simple Past, another post-colonial novel narrated by a very angry young man, which we dedicated a whole other episode to

In the LRB, Adam Shatz recently wrote a wonderful essay discussing Memmi’s writings, political philosophy, and contradictions.