The Plague

ISBN: 0394440617
ISBN 13: 9780394440613
By: Albert Camus Stuart Gilbert

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About this book

A parable of the highest order, The Plague tells the story of a terrible disease that descends upon Oran, Algiers, in a year unknown. After rats crawl from the sewer to die in the streets, people soon begin perishing from terrible afflictions. How the main characters in the book--a journalist, a doctor and a priest--face humanity in the wake of the plague presents one of the book's many lessons. The book deserves to be read on several levels, because the pandemic in The Plague represents any of a number of worldwide catastrophes--both past and future--and the difficult choices everyone must make to survive them.

Reader's Thoughts

Huda Yahya

ألبير كامي__الطـــاعــون__لن يقتنع الآخرون بحججك، بإخلاصك، بحقيقة معاناتك إلا بموتكــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــالحقيقة كالضوء، تعمي الكذب كالشفق الجميل الذي يسحر كل موجودــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــأحب الحياة- هذه هي نقطة ضعفيأحبها بشكل كبير لدرجة أني غير قادر على أن تخيل عكسهاــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــلتكون سعيدا فإنه من الضروري أن لا تهتم كثيرا بالآخرينــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــالإنسان لا يمكن أن يكون متيقنا من أي شيءــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــنحن مخلوقات إستثنائيةكلنا نريد أن نحكم على شيء كل واحد منا يصر على براءته مهما كله ذلك ولو توجب عليه أن يتهم الجنس البشري بأسره والسماء أيضاًــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــالكثير من الناس يتسلقون على الصليب فقط لكي بتم مشاهدتهم من مسافة أبعد حتى وإن أجبروا على دهس من كان هناك لوقت طويلــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــمغطى بالرمادأمزق شعريوجهي تعلوه الخدوش وبعينين حادتين أقف أمام الإنسانية جمعاءملخصاً عاري من دون أن أفقد التركيز في التأثير الذي أخلقه وأقول أنا أحقر الأحقرين وبعدها وبصورة تدريجيةأنتقل من الـ "أنا" إلى الـ "نحنــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــسأقيس السنوات التي تفصلني عن نهايتيسأبحث عن أمثلة لأناس في مثل سني والذين قد ماتواولقد عذبتني الفكرة أنني لن أملك وقتا كافيا لأنجر مهمتيــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــالإنسان يلعب دور الإنسان الفاني وبعد بضع أسابيع لا يعرف إن كان بإمكانه الإستمرار إلى اليوم التاليــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــتعرف ما هو السحر؟أن تحصل على الجواب بنعم من دون أن تسأل أسئلة واضحة

Erik Simon

I first read this twenty years ago and liked it a great deal. I don't know why I wanted to reread it, but I did, and I liked the book even more. It's one of the most relevant books I've ever read. It speaks beautifully, deeply, lucidly to any awful thing that can happen in this world. Camus is sublime in his ability to talk about the large things, talk about the small. The deaths in this novel stir me perhaps more deeply than the deaths in any other book I've read. And Camus seems to have a higher, more accurate opinion of humans than Saramago, whose BLINDNESS offers almost no one redeeming. What "we learn in a time of pestilence," Camus notes, is "that there are more things to admire in men than despise." I think that must be about right.

Fahad

الطاعون لطالما اعتبرت الكتابة عن كارثة ما، أمراً معقداً، لأن على الكاتب أن يكتبها بعقله وقلبه معاً، يكتب بعقله فيظهر لنا أثر الكارثة على المجتمع البشري ككل، بمؤسساته وسلطاته وناسه، على العقل أن يعرض الصورة الكاملة للكارثة، حتى ندرك حجمها، ثم على القلب بعد ذلك أن يتغلغل في ذلك النسيج الاجتماعي الذي يتمزق، فينتقي لنا أفراداً، أفراد يمكن لنا كقراء أن نتآلف معهم، نحبهم ونهتم بمصائرهم، هذا المزيج يظهر لنا حجم الكارثة على المستوى العام، وعلى مستوى أبطالنا الذين صرنا نعرفهم جيداً، ونعرف تأثيرات ما يحدث لهم، عندما يتغلب العقل على القلب في السرد نرى الكارثة بصورتها الواسعة، ولكننا لا ندرك تأثيراتها على الإنسان الضعيف، وعندما يتغلب القلب نغرق في هموم الفرد وأحزانه من دون أن ندرك أبعاد المأساة. في هذه الرواية التي ضرب فيها الطاعون مدينة وهران الجزائرية التي كانت حينها مستعمرة فرنسية، استطاع كامو أن يبرز الصورة العامة، الفئران التي تموت مع وصول الطاعون، الناس التي لا تدري ما الذي يحدث ولا تريد أن تصاب بالهلع، ثم المدينة المنكوبة المغلقة، والترامات التي صارت لا تنقل الناس، وإنما تنقل الجثث إلى حيث تحرق !! ولكنه للأسف لم ينجح في إبراز الجانب الإنساني، لم أتعاطف مع الأبطال أو أشعر بهم، فلذا كانت الرواية بالنسبة لي مملة جداً، تجرعتها حتى النهاية.

Rakhi Dalal

I read “The Plague” right after reading “Swann’s Way”. Of course it wasn’t a deliberate move. But as I moved on, I realized that reading of ‘The Plague’ had rendered something quite remarkable in the way I realized and appreciated both works. Both works embody a reality. ‘Swann’s Way’ speaks of the reality that is long gone by and one wish to remember and cherish, whereas, ‘The Plague’ makes one more acutely aware of the bleakness of actual reality when imposed through an epidemic such as plague. This book speaks of the things that are, rather than things that were. Swann’s way had left me completely mesmerized, longing for the bygones. But The Plague left me assessing the actual approach which governs human beings when faced with discomforts in life.The first thing that strikes in the work is the avoidance of acceptance of pestilence on the part of people of the town of Oran. Albert says, “Pestilence is in fact very common, but we find it hard to believe in a pestilence when it descends upon us. There have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared”. He further adds that because pestilence doesn’t have human dimensions, people refuse to believe it, thinking of it as a bad dream which would end soon. Perhaps people do not wish to accept its onset, for the reason that they have far greater faith in life itself. But when they have to, it results in utter misery on their part. The beauty of the work lies in the depiction of different approaches adopted by different individuals during plague. Whereas some people engage in serving the disease ridden, some try to make more money by smuggling liquor and other desired goods. Some people are melancholic, whereas some try to find happiness in between. What I found further intriguing, were the words Camus employed to express the thoughts conveyed by the Priest, as regarding religion and God during Plague. Consider these two addresses delivered by Father Paneloux; one, at the beginning of the epidemic and the other, after months of suffering.First one starts as:“My brethren, a calamity has befallen you; my brethren, you have deserved it……Since the beginning of history, the scourge of God has brought down the proud and the blind beneath His feet. Think of this and fall on your knees.”Second one ends as:“My brethren, the love of God is a difficult love. It assumes a total abandonment of oneself and contempt for one’s person. But it alone can wipe away the suffering and death of children, it alone makes them necessary because it is impossible to understand such things, so we have no alternative except to desire them. This is the faith- cruel in the eyes of man, decisive in the eyes of God-which we must try to reach. We must try to make ourselves equal to this awful image”In the first address, the Priest is so certain about the ways of God, but the second address clearly depicts the vagueness, as the consequence of severe sufferings due to pestilence. How little does religion/God matters when humanity faces such pandemic! Camus has skilfully captured the inner tumult which the Priest went through while coming to terms with the harsh reality. The reading was quite overpowering. It was further augmented by the reference to Bois de Boulogne at some places during the narration. Grand, an aid to Rieux, read the first line of his writing to Rieux. What was beautiful was the effect it created, producing in mind the consequence of anxiety and the desperation to escape.Rieux was listening at the same time to a sort of vague humming sound in the town, as if replying to the whistling flail of the Plague. At this particular moment he had an extraordinary acute perception of the town spread out at his feet, the enclosed world that it formed and the dreadful cries stifled in its night. He heard Grand’s muffled voice: ‘On a fine morning in the month of May, an elegant woman was riding a magnificent sorrel mare through the flowered avenues of the Bois de Boulogne’I think that Camus, who is touted as an absurdist for his writings on the subject, has very profoundly articulated the idea of absurd through this writing as well. The idea that he presented in The Myth of Sisyphus, that of the need to seek clarity and meaning within a world which offers neither, has been expressed in these lines for me.“All that a man could win in the game of plague and life was knowledge and memory. Perhaps that was what Tarrou called winning the game!...But if that is what it meant to win the game, how hard it must be to live only with what one knows and what one remembers, and deprived of what one hopes.”

Shruti

Dear Book,It was tough. We met. You talked (a lot). I listened (not a lot a lot).You said things like:"Comprehension is the only code of morals."I said through a yawn:"Now, why can't you talk like a normal book."Then you said:"It is in the thick of calamity that one gets hardened to the truth - in other words, to silence."I said:"Hmmm any idea where I can find a thick calamity?"You told me a story where there are no heroes. You said extrapolating basic humanity into pedestals and epaulettes was inhuman. I wanted heroes. I craved them.You said people were better than their sermons. You have to give them chances.I sat there sputtering with my battered judge's wig on my head.You said love, distress, every emotion loses it's poignancy. That one can't love for long, hate for long, weep for long. I didn't want to listen. I thought you were too long.You spoke of the lie of exalted emotions. Of trite monotonous feelings.I sputtered some more. I live in hope of exalted emotions.You spoke of kindness, acceptance, brotherhood.I thought this was too much wisdom for one book.But then, even I am capable of bursts of earnestness. So Book, it's me, not you. Someday, we'll meet again and I might "get" you the way you deserve to be.Shruti

Núria

Pues no, 'La plaga' no me gustó. Creo que es una buena idea que en forma de relato corto podría haber quedado bien, pero que no da para una novela. Para mi gusto le sobran páginas y páginas y páginas y páginas. Creo que con muchas menos ya habríamos pillado todo el rollo de comparar la plaga con la ocupación nazi y también el rollo de lo implacable que es el horror y lo futil que es luchar contra él. La historia se alarga innecesariamente y se vuelve repetitiva y tediosa. Y los personajes son simples monigotes, planos y sin personalidad, exclusivamente al servicio de la acción, y así se me hace imposible sentir nada por ellos, se hace imposible que la novela despierte en mí algún otro sentimiento que no sea aburrimiento.

Henry Martin

Albert Camus is a fairly new author to me, and I must begin by saying that I'm not too familiar with his work. Last year I read his The First Man, The Stranger, and American Journals. All of these books were amazing, so when I reached for the highly acclaimed The Plague, I was expecting yet another fascinating read. The Plague started great. The writing is what I had grown to expect from Camus - intelligent and thought provoking. From the initial scene setting, I was effortlessly pulled into the story and had no trouble visualizing the plaque-stricken city of Oran. Yet, as the novel progressed, I started to care less and less for the plight of Oran and its people. Perhaps I'm more hardened than the readers from the fifties were; or, perhaps, I have grown to expect more. The premise of the novel is definitely interesting, and Camus' writing leaves little to be desired. Nevertheless, the novel (for me) lacked the depth of thought I found in The Stranger, or the intimacy I experienced in The First Man. About a third into it, I found myself pondering other books, which is something that has not happened before while reading Camus. Half way through I contemplated giving up, yet I continued hoping it would get better. And it did, but not until later in the book, once the plague was no longer the main story. In one moment, the moment when Tarrou and Rieux take a break from the thankless work and devote an hour to their friendship. From that point onward, the novel changes tone, and become deeply personal. Here, I found the Camus I was longing for—the Camus whose philosophy clashes with the establishment at large, where human stories are woven into the fictional settings. Would I read The Plague again? Probably, some day in the future. Nevertheless, there is one thought that stayed with me long after I read these lines: "It comes to this," Tarrou said almost casually; "what interests me is learning how to become a saint.""But you don't believe in God.""Exactly! Can one be a saint without God?—that's the problem, in fact the only problem, I'm up against today."and a few lines later, Rieux answers:"But, you know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don't really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man.""Yes, we're both after the same thing, but I'm less ambitious." Tarrou's response and Rieux's comment alone are what makes this book worth reading.

Manny

For some reason, I didn't like La Peste nearly as much I had expected. In fact, I found it pretentious and annoying. Maybe I should re-read it... I have a feeling I missed something. My thoughts during the first reading were that he was way too pleased with himself for having been a hero of the Resistance, and that I no longer found it very odd that Sartre had had a major falling out with him which ended with them no longer speaking to each other.*************************************************After some recent discussions with a few of the millions of people who worship this book, I have been racking my brains to try and figure out what I have against it. The most convincing theory I can come up with is that I read it shortly after Winston Churchill's History of the Second World War. Given Camus's life story, it certainly seemed to me that La Peste was intended as an allegory of what the French Resistance did in WW II. Churchill is pretty dismissive of the Resistance and the Free French - he never quite says so outright, but it's clear he thought de Gaulle was a major pain in the ass, and that this was more a political side-show than any real contribution towards winning the war.So I think Camus got side-swiped here... I just kept thinking, roughly, OK, but these doctors are irrelevant, the real action is taking place in Stalingrad, Midway and el Alamein. Now that I write it down, I see that I am being very unfair to him, the story is in fact quite timeless. But I couldn't shake off the associations.Since it's clear that no one in the world agrees with me on this, I made up a couple of fictional characters who do. You can meet them in my parody, A Tribute to Robin Baker's "Sperm Wars".

Kirk

THE PLAGUE is my favorite Camus in part because it treats its subject humanely. While I can appreciate this historical influence of THE STRANGER, I find that famous "writing degree zero" style a bit too stylized for my taste---not so much in Camus, perhaps, but by the many imitators who have latched onto it in an effort to exploit the emotional detachment it allows for. Besides becoming a cheap term that gets used all the time without any philosophical specificity whatsoever, 'existentialism' as a literary gesture strikes me as a bit too close to a pose meant to shock. The world is shocking enough---give me compassion.So without sentimentalizing humanism, THE PLAGUE is much more satisfying because it explores the range of reaction people are capable of in times of crises. The chief protagonist is a hero for nothing less than his belief in the need to persevere and not give in to despair; as much as any other moral quality except his professionalism, I find that one central to his character. Then there is the simple genius of writing a novel about the French occupation as an allegory. I've often thought lately that one reason 9-11 novels are generally dissatisfactory (from the Salingerisms of J.S. Foer to McInerney's middle-brow in THE GOOD LIFE to the arid philosophizing of DeLillo's THE FALLING MAN)is that in tackling that story, writers mine its meaning too literally. I wish someone would follow Camus's example and do something more metaphorical. In the meantime, however, I'll keep rereading this one.

Krishan

A great novel, one of the best I have read. The Plague tells story of a small town in Algeria that is nearly destroyed by an epidemic of bubonic plague. The people of the town are only dimly aware of the plague as it begins, and once it takes hold, most are too apathetic or weak or confused to fight it. The events are viewed through the eyes of a doctor, and we see all humanity, at its best and worst: loving, killing, sharing, stealing, embracing and suffering.Written in 1948, It is a parable for the moral and political plagues that nearly destroyed Europe in World War II. The lesson: There is more to admire than to despise in the character of man, but only eternal vigilance against the forces of evil can prevent the worst crimes from happening again.

Mehdi

The plague of Albert Camus is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, the writer who wrote that novel while in Algeria, Oran during the Nazi’s occupation of France, nonetheless Albert Camus didn’t get into explaining the suffering that the war have brought as sadness and torment to his native country, he went far beyond that by choosing one the most fatal disease that a human being may have which is the merciless PLAGUE EPIDEMIC.The story is set Algeria 1960, the plague took place and changed the way all the inhabitants of the city were living, to question all what they’ve been doing until that day. In Dr.Rieux Albert Camus unfold us his novel, in a objective way, through the critical and simplistic reasoning that doctor had throughout the story.The epidemic certainly frightened all the inhabitants of the city, and pushed them to start questioning themselves, therefore their existence, what have they achieved so far in their lives to regret the death that they may face at any moment. In death people fear the utmost, in death we can’t answer the mysteries of our mortality, in death we’re taking accounts of what we’ve done so far in this life and how appreciate life and make it even better if you’re to be set alive. The death shatters the convictions, touches the important constituents of our existence, Albert Camus protagonist Dr.Rieux is objectively included in the story as Albert Camus himself, You can feel his spontaneity in dealing with the problems that he might encounter, he sees things from top, and doesn’t get frightened by the epidemic as much as he is so eager to help the people, to cure them if possible.The novel has many different sub-topics in itself, for instance, the science Vs religion (Dr.rieux vs Paneloux), wherein Albert Camus dared to defend the rationality and the objectivity of science as a ‘’religion’’ to help people find a meaning for their lives, and question the absurdity of a world that has left people bewildered in its sinister mystery.There are even those who found there joys in experiencing the pestilence, and found that the society is better now under that fatal disease as Albert Camus perfectly embodied this feature in cottar’s character, and who towards the beginning of the story was isolated, anti-social, unfit inside the society, subsequently after the plague took place he started to see that the society has now something in common, whereupon, the citizens socially and involuntary share, and so to dismiss and discard all the nonsense that were taking place during the normal, candid, boring life. All in all, the plague is a reminder that Human beings should not take their life for granted, they should give a meaning to it, a conviction, and a standpoint towards what is surrounding them. Moreover, one can see that nature might bring us unpredictable phenomenon that may dumbfound us, but with evolving through it, understanding it, grasping its essence, human life will thus have a brighter existential meaning.

Michael Austin

In every literary and artistic movement, I believe, there is one work that stands out as 1) a representative of everything that the movement stands for; and 2) a work of art that can be enjoyed on its own merits by people who do not like, or agree with, the movement that it represents. For me, "I Will Survive" fills this role for disco music; "Spirited Away" fills it for Japanese Anime, and THE PLAGUE does it for French existentialism. THE PLAGUE makes largely the same argument as THE STRANGER and NO EXIT, but I think that it is more successful on the larger level because it makes the argument positively (by showing us people who do it right) rather than negatively (by showing us how people get it wrong). It is much easier to criticize the bad than it is to model the good. Camus should be given all due praise for attempting the latter--and succeeding. THE PLAGUE would be a great novel even if there were no such thing as existentialism--or, for that matter, France.

Guy Portman

In the Algerian coastal town of Oran, an explosion in the rat population has not gone unnoticed. The infestation soon comes to an abrupt halt with the mysterious demise of the rats. When the townsfolk begin to fall ill, culminating in their deaths, the authorities realise that the town is afflicted with the plague. As the death toll mounts, the population is quarantined to prevent the disease from spreading, resulting in privations for the populace.The narrator of the story is the increasingly fatigued town doctor, Bernard Rieux. Through Rieux’s interactions with the various characters we observe the populace’s reaction to the epidemic, including the journalist, Raymond Rambert, who longs to return to his wife, and the unfortunate Jean Tarrou, who wandered into Oran during the epidemic. The town’s priest, Father Paneloux, initially insists the plague is an act of God to punish the citizens, only to have his attitudes challenged by the death of the young, innocent Jacques Othon. There is great variation in the plague sufferers’ reaction to their forthcoming demise, with some resigned to their fates, whilst others seek blame, or even refuse to acknowledge it.Utilising a narrative tone and poetic style of prose, The Plague is an existentialist classic that evaluates morality, ethics, religion, the role of God and how we react to death. There are no heroes to be found, merely people who accept responsibility, such as Dr Rieux and Raymond Rambert.When viewed in the context of Camus’s lifelong opposition to totalitarianism, The Plague can be understood as a story about resistance, in which the disease itself is as an allegory for fascism and totalitarianism. This is a philosophical work that explores destiny, the human condition, and absurdism, namely the human tendency to try and find meaning in life, but failing to find any.

Bruce

More than seven years have passed since last I read this book, and it was now time for a revisit. I’m glad I reread it. A book that can be read on several levels, it invites the reader to ponder below the surface story of a biological plague in northern Algeria and see Camus’ vision as a means of exploring the response of individuals and community to the horrible and unexpected in any form. Camus himself surely meant on one level to let the plague represent Nazism, and we are invited to let it represent whatever terrifying crises we are and may be facing in our own time – terrorism? climate change? economic collapse? uncontrollable infectious diseases?Important to Camus’ theme is his setting his tale in the most ordinary of places, Oran, ordinary, ugly, placid, boring and thoroughly negative. The story we are about to hear could happen anywhere, there being nothing special about this place; indeed, it could happen just where we, the readers, are. The narrator is a citizen of the town, speaking in the first person. His tone is conversational, speaking directly to the reader. The society he sketches, on of banality and commercialism, describes our own. The town has no interest in or inkling of anything different, “in other words, completely modern.” It is, in two words, habitual and somnambulant. This is why the inhabitants did not recognize premonitory signs of the crisis about to engulf them.The first named character in the story is Dr. Rieux, a physician sending his wife to a sanatorium in the mountains. He notices an unusual number of rats dying in the town but has no explanation, not yet even thinking seriously about it. Rieux is world-weary, fond of humankind but not of cant, determined to resist injustices and compromises with truth. As more and more rats die, the populace responds with an esthetic revulsion that only gradually builds to a disquieting alarm, for as yet only rats have died. Suddenly dying rats disappear, and people begin falling ill. A second major figure is introduced, Father Paneloux, a “militant Jesuit.” So now the voice of religion is added to the perspective of scientific rationalism. And next is Monsieur Cottard, the survivor of a suicide attempt. With the onset of a peculiar fever, usually fatal, that more citizens begin to manifest, a period of fear and serious reflection begins. The narrator, in describing this time, acknowledges his debt to the observations and journals of Jean Tarrou, a somewhat mysterious person who has come to Oran just before the onset of events and who stays once difficulties develop. The town’s doctors begin to recognize that the illness is plague, but as yet there is denial that an epidemic is beginning to occur. Dr. Rieux’s approach, as he ruminates on events, is simply “to do your job as it should be done.” Assisted by the meek civil functionary Joseph Grand who provides him with mortality data, Rieux insists that the municipal Prefect put into place the required measures for dealing with plague, despite the latter’s wish to avoid the responsibility to stating that a plague epidemic is occurring. Other physicians waffle, attempting to avoid the same responsibility. Critical time passes, and more people become ill. Only a few preventative measures are taken until at last no denial is possible and the whole town is quarantined, shut off from the outside world.Now a new phase has begun. Now there is no possibility of anyone’s leaving the town, and, since all communication except for occasional brief telegrams into and out of Oran is prohibited, essentially all interactions with those separated is impossible; those having left town for only a few days are gone for the duration of the plague, and there is no way of knowing how long that separation might last. Yet at first in this phase it was the distress of separation, the sense of isolation, and the consequence disruption of daily activities related to commerce and the like that were most noticeable. As yet few people contemplated the significance of the plague itself in terms of potential personal death or permanent loss of loved ones. Rationing begins to occur. Death rates rise. Rambert, a journalist not resident in the town but trapped there by circumstance, appeals to Rieux to give him a certificate of health that will permit him to leave. Knowing that such a certificate is impossible, Rieux is accused of being uncaring, “a rationalist,” without human feeling of any kind, an accusation with which Rieux realizes he must in some sense accept as correct if he is to function in caring for the sick and dying. He becomes conscious of a progressive “bleak indifference” that is necessary for him to continue; he “grows out of pity when its useless.” And yet he goes on caring for the victims. The intensification of the plague precipitates a Week of Prayer culminating in Father Paneloux’s sermon asserting that the people suffer because their sinfulness has led God to withdraw his protection from them. Yet Paneloux also offers encouragement. Camus’ metaphors are sometimes striking; here is an example: “The sun stalked our townsfolk along every byway, into every nook; and when they paused, it struck.”Rieux, an atheist, is motivated by duty and by determination to relieve suffering when he sees it. Tarrou is motivated by his desire to understand, to comprehend. Each person reacts and responds to events in his own way, for his own reasons.Midway though the book the narrator (who has still not been identified) makes a few parenthetical comments about evil, comments that make more sense in the context of talking about manmade rather than natural evils, thus reinforcing the interpretation that on some level Camus’ point has to do with Nazism more than or as much as biological plague. The narrator says, “The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. Men…are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.”What happens over time is a general numbing of emotions, a constricting of interests, an inability to live in anything but the moment since no future can be envisioned. The plague no longer seems memorable, only monotonous. All one can do is one’s job, mindlessly, not even hopelessly but without feeling altogether. One’s life becomes impersonal, and a “blind endurance…ousted love from all our hearts.” Yet out of this flatness there occasionally bursts forth anguish, rage, and despair, evidenced most obviously in the responses of Camus’ main characters, of whom Rieux seems always the most sympathetic. Father Paneloux preaches two sermons during the course of the plague, the second showing his evolving understanding of its “meaning,” if the word “meaning” has any validity. His interpretation of a Christian message, or at least a Christian response to events, may have been convincing or comforting to some of his hearers. It is not to me. A long disquisition by Tarrou near the end of the novel reinforces the position that Camus is really discussing human evil more than natural evil, using the plague only as a metaphor. Tarrou relates his own history to Rieux, reinforcing his own conviction that each of us is complicit in the cruelty and injustice in the world. Camus ends this section with these lines:“It comes to this,” Tarrou said almost casually; “what interests me is learning how to become a saint.”“But you don’t believe in God.”“Exactly! Can one be a saint without God? – that’s the problem, in fact the only problem, I’m up against today.”“Perhaps,” the doctor answered. “But, you know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interest me is being a man.”“Yes, we’re both after the same thing, but I’m less ambitious.”Finally, of course, the plague departs. Life can never be the same, on the one hand, and on the other, life resumes, the past pushed out of awareness. The narrator finishes his story. But “the tale could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers…[The joy of release] is always impermanent…The plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and then perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.”This is a book to be read again and again as a reader grows and ages, each reading providing deeper insights into the world and himself.

Leonard

When the plague stealthily but mercilessly struck Oran, Dr. Rieux and his friends had to fight in the dark a noiseless enemy and could only rely on their courage and resilience. Whether the plague symbolized the Nazi occupation of France or the general suffering of our human condition, Camus focused on the internal character and strength of Rieux and his friends rather than the storm’s force and direction. Tarrou organized the sanitation team and Grand joined even though, as Rieux noted, their surviving it was only one in three. And the journalist Rambert could have left the city and returned to Paris, but was willing to risk not only his happiness with his girlfriend but also his life to struggle alongside Oran’s inhabitants to defeat the plague. Beni Hammad Fort in AlgeriaUnlike Meursault in The Stranger, who stood alone and alienated, Dr. Rieux fought the plague alongside his comrades Tarrou, Grand, Rambert and Castel. Though in the end, the plague took Tarrou’s life and those of several acquaintances, camaraderie had strengthened their resolve to fight this unknown and powerful enemy and highlighted the hope that in tumultuous hours and charred wastelands a few good men and women might sacrifice for the common good. And though when the city celebrated its victory, Rieux must mourn the loss of his wife, not through the plague but through a previous illness, newborn aroma seeped through the stench of the plague. As Rieux noted at the novel’s conclusion, the enemy might return; and in the next battle victory might escape beyond the city, but their courage and sacrifice would carry the fight across desert and sea.A Quote from the BookAn allegory of our existential condition, The Plague sprinkles hope without relying on Pollyanna. Albert Camus

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