WHEN Albert Camus published "Exile and the Kingdom" (Vintage, 166 pp., $13.95 paper) in 1957, he was a man caught between his position as France's leading moral intellectual and his roots as an Algerian-born pied-noir. Although he would win the Nobel Prize for literature later that year, Camus was already under attack from all sides for his unwillingness to comment on Algeria's war of independence against France. In one of his few statements on the matter, he declared, "I believe in justice, but I will defend my mother before justice."
For Camus, neither the French colonialists, with their brutality toward the Arabs and Berbers, nor the Algerian freedom fighters, who targeted French civilians, had the necessary moral authority. More important, he understood that his people, the Algerians of French descent, would suffer, forced out of a home they had adopted and into exile in a native land they never knew.
These issues of identity and exile are at the heart of the six stories that make up this collection, four of which take place in North Africa. The last book of fiction Camus published in his lifetime, "Exile and the Kingdom" eschews the allegorical textures of "The Plague" and "The Fall" for something more directly of the world.