An unnamed narrator who will be revealed later (Oh, the suspense!) tells us about a city called Oran in the 1940s where some "unusual events" are soon to go down.
Oran is a French port in Algeria, which sounds exotic, but is actually more on the ugly side. It’s got hot weather and no discernable seasons. Sounds pretty dull.
People spend all their time working the equivalent of corporate jobs at the port. This also sounds dull.
Everyone wants money; they have to work so hard to get it, they have hardly any time to spend it. Sounds like social commentary…
The town people waste the rest of their time hanging out and playing cards and drinking.
People barely even have time for sex. Sure, there’s the occasional hot hook-up, but mostly these people are overworked and undersexed.
The narrator thinks it’s important to explain that people in Oran don’t like to die.
Isn’t that kind of like everybody? Yes. But the point our stoic narrator is making is that, while dying always sucks, it sucks even more in Oran, since no one gives a d--n about you, and gives even less of one when you’ve got one foot in the grave. So if you’re on your way out, you should respectfully leave town.
We get some more details: the people in Oran are a fan of habits and routine. It’s not exciting, admittedly, but at least there isn’t any social unrest.
Physically, Oran lies in the center of a bare plateau, surrounded by hills and above a "perfectly shaped bay." This is great, except the town faces away from this perfect bay, so if you want to see the water you have to go look for it.
Since Oran is obviously completely ordinary, no one had the faintest idea that a bizarre unusual set of events was soon to come.
Our narrator wants badly to be an objective storyteller. He (we’re using the masculine pronoun, but we don’t actually know the narrator’s gender) even gives the reasons why his account is factual: he relies on documents, eye-witness accounts, and his own experience.
Perhaps it’s time to stop mucking about and start this story already.