Please, read that first and then come back to this novel.
Buy The Plague at Amazon. Camus showed how all pieties stink, and my teenage heart went molten with admiration. I wanted to go back to The Plague because I'd just read his posthumous memoir, The First Manwith its pitiless account of want and scarcity as he grew up among war widows in colonial Algeria.
It upset my presuppositions about empire families. In addition, the current crisis makes me burn to understand more about North Africa and the colonial conflicts that form its long, bitter background Palestine, Suez, Algeria, Lebanon.
But The Plague surprised me. The stricken city is Oran in Algeria, but it's also France, during the second world war.
This France, however, stands for Everywhere, a banal small place where history unfortunately takes a terrible turn. Far from being a study in existential disaffection, as I had so badly misremembered, The Plague is about courage, about engagement, about paltriness and generosity, about small heroism and large cowardice, and about all kinds of profoundly humanist problems, such as love and goodness, happiness and mutual connection.
Camus published the novel in and his town's sealed city gates embody the borders imposed by the Nazi occupation, while the ethical choices of its inhabitants build a dramatic representation of the different positions taken by the French.
He etches with his sharp, implacable burin questions that need to be faced now more than ever in the resistance to terrorism. Perhaps even more than when La Peste was published, the novel works with the stuff of fear and shame, with bonds that tie and antagonisms that sever. But The Plague couldn't be written now, not the way it is - and this I think dates it to a degree that differs from other studies in terrorism - Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent or Dostoevsky's The Possessed.
Though the novel is set in Algeria, there are no Arabs in it. The best that can be said in defence of this blindness is that Camus didn't bring on a native or two in the background in order to throw into relief the moral enterprise of his heroes, as Toni Morrison's essays, Playing in the Darkhave sharply criticised with regard to black presences in Melville and Hemingway et al.
But because the empire was not yet writing back in the days when I was first reading La Peste, I didn't notice the Arabs were passed over. Nor did the absence of women strike me. Women are achingly always elsewhere in this book, seeping from the novel's outer edges in the ghost of a mother's smile from childhood, an ailing wife, an absent girlfriend longed for, possessively and obsessively dreamed of.
In one of the emblematic strands of the novel, the orderly Joseph Grand is looking throughout for the right words to perfect his vision of a woman rider out in the Bois de Boulogne: The gaps don't, however, ruin the novel. It's excitingly and tightly plotted, constructed in five acts like a Greek tragedy.
From the plague's ominous annunciation, the first dead rat, rotting on the turn of the stair in the protagonist's apartment block, to the end of the first act and the prefect's terse command, "close the town", plot fits meaning with tailored perfection.
Alongside the plague-stricken inhabitants, we have to turn inwards and face imprisonment amid harrowing scenes of isolation, disease and death. But even more than this bravura dramatic writing, the story of Dr Rieux's selfless struggle with the illness, and the different responses of other citizens, colleagues and chance acquaintances, unfolds an urgent allegory of war.
The themes of The Plague - terror, poison, cruel and tormented deaths, heroic struggle, acquiescence, alliance - are examined from every angle through various protagonists, from the patient, inarticulate, generous-hearted Joseph Grand, to the brooding, conflicted journalist Jean Tarrou a kind of self-portrait and of course Rieux himself, the indefatigable plague doctor who will turn out to be the narrator.
It's a consummation of fiction as a close-up dissection table of human psychology, as well as the larger space of tragic political expression and moral and philosophical conundra.
Again and again, Camus invokes some condition of well-being that has been forfeited, because the pestilence has taken hold. Cut off in the plague city, the people's moorings of past loves and values are all lost: But the central puzzle Camus worries at comes towards the end of the novel, with Tarrou's celebrated question, "Can one be a saint without God?
What interests me is - being a man.
Primo Levi is fingering some similar lesion in the title of his postwar memoir, written almost concurrently with Camus, If This Is a Man.
Humanity is denatured by the war; can its bones be reassembled and animated again, in a form that can be lived with? What does Camus let us take away from The Plague?
Misanthropy and pessimism those aspects that gave me such satisfaction 40 years ago glint through the fabric of the novel, but they signal a call to vigilance rather than defeat.
No one is immune from the plague, Camus writes, and he urges: But they are more or less ignorant, and it is that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. I suppose I was right that Camus vision was bleak, but I was wrong to take comfort from that.
The Plague doesn't give permission to despair but works out the complex hope offered by resistance and the urgency of understanding the long, deep reach of war's corrupting power.The Plague by Albert Camus A haunting tale of human resilience in the face of unrelieved horror, Camus' novel about a bubonic plague ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature.4/5(73).
The Plague is the most popular work of Nobel Prize winning author Albert initiativeblog.com a review of the novel here. The Plague by Albert Camus Posted on May 2, by Petermb Composed in , Albert Camus’ The Plague (Vintage International, pages) is a study of human habit and frailty in a time of widespread destruction and crisis.
Re-reading Albert Camus’ The Plague. First published A classic of world literature. Camus was a hero of the intellectual Resistance; a charismatic advocate of radical social and political change. His allegory of the wartime occupation of France reopened a painful chapter in the recent French past but in an indirect and ostensibly political key.
Book Review: the Plague by Albert Camus. June 27, Book Critique of Albert Camus’ THE PLAGUE In reading Camus’ The Plague, I found myself easily attaching personal significance to the many symbolic references and themes alluded to in this allegorical work.
Some of the most powerful messages woven throughout the novel seem to all speak to conflict or imbalance between two ends of a spectrum. The Plague is Albert Camus’s most successful novel. It was published in , when Camus was thirty-three, and was an immediate triumph.
Within a year it had .