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The Plague by Albert Camus
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The Plague (1947)

by Albert Camus

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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14,668180261 (3.96)2 / 503
Chaos prevails when the bubonic plague strikes the Algerian coastal city of Oran. 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.
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English (155)  Spanish (5)  Italian (5)  Dutch (5)  French (4)  German (2)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (179)
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
Some seem to consider this to be an allegory for the French Resistance in World War 2. I can't speak to how closely the events of The Plague connect with anything de Gaulle and his pals did, but I can absolutely tell you that this novel has all the literary elements that make every allegory so bad. It's incredibly bland, the characters stink, and points are made so bluntly that you'd be far better off just reading Camus' straight philosophical musings.

One problem with The Plague is how the subject matter is presented to the reader. The whole thing feels like nothing more than a series of detached observations, which to me is the least compelling way possible to present a narrative. This detachment has some inevitable consequences, first and foremost being a lack of emotional depth.

Much of the explanation of the residents' behavior feels like it was written by the Associated Press. Here's what happened. Here's why it happened. Here's a short anecdote that inadequately reflects the aforementioned what and why. What's strange is that I'm not even sure that Camus could have written it any other way. When he made the decision to tell the story via a narrator who is collecting information and attempting to tell the story as objectively as possible, he (un?)intentionally cut out what makes a novel a novel: the stuff that isn't as objective as possible. The limitations on the narrator limited the narrative, especially when it came to the novel's supporting cast.

The Plague provides insight into the effects the epidemic has on the city and its residents, but unfortunately you're never made to care about any of those residents. I guess they're supposed to represent certain types of people that would exist in a plague-ridden city, but a good character has to be an actual person, not just a type of person. This is again brought about at least partially by the fact that this narrator is only able to have one perspective: his own. But that's a little too simple, isn't it? Plenty of books (in fact, probably most) are told by or from the perspective of a character that can't read other people's minds, and that doesn't keep readers in the dark. What other books do, and what The Plague doesn't do, is set up conflicts that require a unique response, providing an outlet for a character to demonstrate his individuality. In The Great Gatsby, most of what we know about Jay Gatsby comes from the way he responded to Daisy's marriage to Tom Buchanan. There is no definite or obvious way to respond to the marriage of the woman you love to someone else, so Gatsby's reaction demonstrates his passion, his values, his talents, etc.

So what is the conflict that can shed light on the personalities of the citizens of Oran in The Plague? Well, the plague.

This is a problem because the range of responses is so limited. Your city is suffering from an outbreak of plague. What can you do? You can stay in town and try to be helpful, you can stay in town and not try to be helpful, or you can try to escape. That's pretty much it. The problem here is twofold. Firstly, the motivation behind each response is obvious and tells you nothing about the person responding. Secondly and more importantly, it's a black-and-white issue. There is an obvious good guy decision and two obvious bad guy decisions. It's all way too simple, and in this case, the simplicity is frighteningly uninteresting.

The one guy that was mildly enjoyable to read about was Grand. I liked his writing style, probably because it reminded me of my own. Grand is attempting to write a novel, but he spends the entire duration of The Plague revising the first sentence over and over again. Assisting Grand with his diction provides several characters with a welcome distraction from all the death and decay, and it provided me with a welcome distraction from the rest of the novel. Whenever he wasn't around, I found myself counting how many pages I had left, which is not a good place to be as a reader.

Having good ideas doesn't make you a good novelist (e.g. a guy whose name rhymes with Smorge Chorewell), just as good novelists don't always have good ideas (e.g. Blorson Jot Nard). Camus probably would have been better off writing this as a straight up essay, something like "What It Would Be Like If Plague Struck a Modern City." Oh well. ( )
1 vote bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
A thoughtful exploration into morality, 'the only way to fight the plague is with decency'. I won't spoil any of it but it definitely worth the read and it is not too hard to get through.

It is also quite amusing to read this book during these times. ( )
  Neal_Anderson | May 7, 2020 |
If there is anything true about people facing deadly realities that is not in this book, I've never encountered it. The language sweeps though the book as the plague sweeps thought the city, steady and unrelenting and suddenly there is a dust devil of passion, love, lost, frustration, helplessness as the story touches individuals. ( )
  quondame | Apr 28, 2020 |
Prescient and nicely written ( )
  benbrainard8 | Apr 18, 2020 |
843.912 CAM
  alessandragg | Apr 18, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (63 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Camus, AlbertAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corsari, WillyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dal Fabbro, BeniaminoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, StuartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jenner, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mannerkorpi, JuhaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mannerkorpi, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'It is as reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not! -' ('Robinson Crusoe's preface' to the third volume of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe).
Dedication
First words
The unusual events described in this chronicle occurred in 194- at Oran.
Les curieux événements qui font le sujet de cette chronique se sont produits en 194., à Oran.
Le matin du 16 avril, le docteur Bernard Rieux sortit de son cabinet et buta sur un rat mort, au milieu du palier
Quotations
"Oran, however, seems to be a town without intimations; in other words, completely modern."
The distinction can be made between men and, for example, dogs; men’s deaths are checked and entered up.
"They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences."
"In normal times all of us know, whether consciously or not, that there is no love which can't be bettered; nevertheless we reconcile ourselves more or less easily to the fact that ours has never risen above the average."
"You'd almost think they expected to be given medals for it. But what does that mean—'plague'? Just life, no more than that."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Orano è colpita da un'epidemia inesorabile e tremenda. Isolata con un cordone sanitario dal resto del mondo, affamata, incapace di fermare la pestilenza, la città diventa il palcoscenico e il vetrino da esperimento per le passioni di un'umanità al limite tra disgregazione e solidarietà. La fede religiosa, l'edonismo di chi non crede alle astrazioni, ma neppure è capace di "essere felice da solo", il semplice sentimento del proprio dovere sono i protagonisti della vicenda; l'indifferenza, il panico, lo spirito burocratico e l'egoismo gretto gli alleati del morbo. Scritto da Camus secondo una dimensione corale e con una scrittura che sfiora e supera la confessione, "La peste" è un romanzo attuale e vivo, una metafora in cui il presente continua a riconoscersi.
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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185139, 0141045515, 0141049235

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