"The Guest" is a 1957 short existential story written by famed Noble Prize-winning writer, philosopher, and journalist Albert Camus, which was originally published as a part of his popular short story collection titled Exile and the Kingdom. It is considered to be the most political out of the six stories which make up the collection, as Camus presents his opinions and emotions on the political climate of France and the state the country was in during its conflict with Algeria, commonly known in history as the Algerian War. Despite its political undertones, however, Camus never takes a side and keeps a neutral stance throughout the entire story, which reflects his beliefs and advocacy in real life.
The thought-provoking title is a very interesting element of the story and it is probably the very first thing that makes the readers feel that there might be something more to "The Guest." The original French title is actually a bit of a double entendre, as it can be translated to both "the guest" and "the host," which indicates that Camus decided to incorporate a bit of his absurdist philosophy in the story, before he even revealed the actual plot.
The plot revolves around a French-Algerian school teacher named Daru, who might actually be a literary self-portrait of Camus. Daru meets two men who are on their way to the police station in Tinguit: a police officer named Balducci and his Arab prisoner, who apparently killed his cousin in a fight over food. Balducci leaves the prisoner with Daru, and Daru takes care of him before telling him that he has a choice to make: he can either go to Tinguit and turn himself in or escape with the rebels who are hiding from the authorities. The prisoner chooses to turn himself in and leaves a message to Daru which says that he will pay for his "betrayal."
As the story progresses, the readers can feel the inner turmoil that Daru is feeling; it is obvious that he does not wish to be a part of the political conflict, and his confusion and sense of responsibility leave him and the readers feeling a bit anxious. He seems to be a wise person who believes in doing the right thing, which is why he gave the prisoner a choice to either be free or go in prison. Interestingly enough, the prisoner chooses to go in Tinguit and even threatens Daru for betraying his own people, which is when the readers can see the irony of the story; Daru, who helped and took care of the prisoner and basically gave him his freedom, is the one who is "punished" for his actions, while Balducci, who imprisoned the Arab and mistreated him, goes back home, unbothered by the situation.
It is obvious that the story does not have a happy ending; in fact, it seems that it does not have a resolution at all, since we never actually find out what might have happened with Daru or the prisoner. This leaves us feeling a bit restless and unsatisfied but, at the same time, calm and accepting, as we come to the realization that we really do live in an absurd world and it seems that there is nothing we can do about it.