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The Plague by Albert Camus
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The Plague (1947)

by Albert Camus

Other authors: Stuart Gilbert (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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What an interesting novel. Sarah had to point out to me how it is a metaphor of the Nazi's and the concentration camps. I read it totally at face value. I just wasn't interested in looking for metaphors.

I like the sociological aspects of the story: how the people react to being locked into their town; how other people use the plague to their advantage while their neighbors suffer; how others realize that the only thing to really do is fight the plague and it's effects.

I love the characters Tarrou and Rieux the most. Both to me are such wonderful men. They both represent the good of all people. I kept thinking that it must be a real honor to have been each other's friend. Tarrou keeps Rieux going and Rieux offers a sounding board for Tarrou.

The priest was a bit scary, although I do believe that God uses the ills of the world to call us to look inward and upward. I don't necessarily agree with his first sermon about how the town deserved the plague, that's too much for me. After Noah's flood, God promised to never do that again. And it's been my belief that God has a way of reaching out to us through less severe means. BUT that in times of flood, draught, hurricanes, plague, we need to turn to God, ask Him to help us find the peace in the situation.

That's the part that Tarrou got. He understood that even if he didn't outright say it. He realized that in this crisis, the people need to come together and work for the betterment of the community. In the New Testament, Jesus is always telling the people to care for each other, to love each other, to look out for the people who don't have as much as we do. I think this is what the priest finally came to realize as well. ( )
1 vote wendithegray | May 1, 2017 |
It's the 1940s in Oran, a coastal city in the Northern African country of Algeria, when, on a spring day as random as any other, rats begin crawling out of the shadows only to die violent deaths in the streets, hotels, and other public venues.

It isn't long before the town's physicians, including Dr. Bernard Rieux, whose ailing wife had just departed Oran to be cared for in a sanitorium, declare that bubonic plague is upon the town during a meeting with the Prefect.

Unfortunately, it takes the rest of the population a bit longer to acknowledge the outbreak, since the plague's attack begins slowly. Bubonic plague is the last thing anyone expects. It is not until the Prefect orders the town gates closed and all vehicular transportation terminated than panic truly sets in.

While Rieux works tirelessly to treat the victims, ultimately unable to do more than keep a tally of the ever-increasing death rate, each of his colleagues and friends reacts to the crisis differently.

Dr. Castel begins formulating an inoculation against the plague once it's realized that the medicines sent in from Paris have no effect.

An elderly town clerk, Joseph Grand struggles with his novel-in-progress, fretting over the opening sentence for months all the while struggling with the fact that his wife, Jeanne, left him as she could no longer tolerate living in poverty. Finally, Grand volunteers to assist with plague prevention.

The mysterious Cottard, a man of "independent means", attempts to commit suicide at the onset of the plague, but is stopped by his neighbor, Grand. Cottard has a deep distrust of the police, but comes to find that while they are distracted by the plague, his seedy activities can continue unchecked.

Young journalist Raymond Rambert is only visiting Oran for a story when the town is quarantined and will go to any lengths to escape and return to his wife. When all legal means are exhausted, he turns to Cottard in desperation.

Father Paneloux, pastor of the town's Catholic church, believes that the plague is God's punishment and delivers a sermon to that effect, but eventually has a change of heart, stating that God will also offer succor and mercy. He then volunteers to assist Rieux with caring for the sick and is witness to the violent death of Magistrate Othon's son.

Jean Tarrou, who quickly becomes Rieux's closest friend, arrived in Oran just weeks before the plague erupted and decides to form teams of sanitation workers on a volunteer basis to fight the plague. Eventually, he reveals his life story to Rieux as a way of explaining why he is fiercely determined to help people when lives are at stake.

Other characters come in and out of the narrative, but the question is whether the efforts of this core team can bring an end to a plague that ravages Oran over the course of nearly a full year. The general atmosphere and attitude of the town is brilliantly depicted as the plague escalates through the seasons.

The Plague was Camus's first book published after WWII. Contemporary readers unfamiliar with Camus—or with works written in this era—will most certainly cringe at pages of dense background information that would, in today's terminology, be considered "infodumps." There are also the occasional archaic sentence structures and words (a few even sent me to the dictionary) and outdated expressions of the time.

However, as I tend to gravitate toward classics, this style of prose is no stranger to me and is to be expected. It does nothing to diminish the enjoyment of such stories, but instead offers a glimpse into the history and evolution of literature. ( )
1 vote pgiunta | Dec 27, 2016 |
Reading The Plague, I found in Albert Camus that rarest of things: the readable philosopher. The French writer and one-time goalkeeper created a scenario – an entire town quarantined with the outbreak of plague – that allowed him ample opportunity to comment on the human condition. There are some great choice passages and the whole theme of the book is an admirable one that is given the full force of Camus' attention.

This theme concerns itself with how mankind responds to setbacks – namely, existential crises like plagues. How do things like love, community, hope and law and order survive and adapt to such changes? Camus' conclusion throws down a gauntlet: "What's natural is the microbe. All the rest – health, integrity, purity (if you like) – is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter." (pg. 207). Humanity has to defend itself against an unfeeling world, whether that ill-feeling is generated by evil or indifference. By providing a narrative of an entire town – through a few choice residents – Camus can probe at many different aspects of calamity and humanity's response to it.

A related theme – and one which was of great interest to me – was that the town's struggle with this dark affliction can be seen as an allegory for the Nazi occupation of France in World War Two. Written in 1947 by a writer who had been active in the Resistance, The Plague would likely be analysed through this lens even if the allegory were not quite so clearly designed by the author. From times of innocence to invasion by the pestilence, through endurance and on to liberation, the comparison is extremely compelling. It's never obvious, and won't get in the way for those readers who don't want to view the book this way. There's plenty to chew on here, but Camus keeps this allegory discreet. It's just an interesting thing to be aware of and to have in the back of your mind as you're reading the book.

But what is particularly gladdening about reading The Plague is not its themes – strong as they are – but how well they are presented. They harmonize with the storytelling. The book is short and quick to read, and presented with a bit of dramatic flair. Nor is it as depressing as its title and its synopsis might suggest. Rather, the tone is one of hope in dark times, perhaps best summarized in this passage from page 13: "The language he used was that of a man who was sick and tired of the world he lived in – though he had much liking for his fellow-men." There's hope here in the darkness.

It's not a perfect book; at times, it can feel assembled rather than spun and it doesn't always tally with narrative logic that every character is given to lecturing in philosophy. With this in mind, I didn't always feel connected with the characters: Dr Rieux's various sounding boards, like Tarrou and Grand and Cottard, became indistinct in my mind. I also felt like it focused rather too heavily on the quarantine aspect (and consequently, the isolation) rather than the plague itself (the panic it creates and death and loss it forces people to confront). Again, this is where the allegory of the 1940 occupation wields its influence – the focus on isolation and imprisonment, cut off from the free world and under the thumb of a dark malignity. Overall, though, the lesser parts are more than outweighed by the greater parts and, like Camus concludes of men on page 251, there is in the book more things to admire than to despise. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Dec 25, 2016 |
Review pending ( )
  leslie.98 | Dec 10, 2016 |
This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot.wordpress.leafmarks.com by express permission of this reviewer. Title: The Plague Series: ----- Author: Albert Camus
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars Genre: Classic Literature
Pages: 400 Synopsis: A small French town contracts the Plague and this is the rather detached and unemotional account of it all. My Thoughts: I did a Buddy Read of the Plague with Cleo. To be perfectly honest, I hated this book. Every single character had the focus on their bad side. Even if it was a mediocre, blase apathetic bad side. You see everyone as a petty character acting pettily. Even the Dr, who fights the plague with everything in him, is fatalistic and rather laise-faire in his attitude. Camus is pretty heavy-handed in allowing his philosophy to color this book. Which isn't surprising but not necessarily pleasant. Camus deserves to have this called a Classic. It is well written, a good depiction of a sub-section of humanity and it tells a good tale. I am glad I read this. But I'm glad I go to the dentist too, so keep that in mind. Hopefully next month's Classic read will be a bit more upbeat. " ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (77 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Camus, Albertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, StuartTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corsari, WillyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, StuartTranslatorsecondary 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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679720219, Paperback)

The Nobel prize-winning Albert Camus, who died in 1960, could not have known how grimly current his existentialist novel of epidemic and death would remain. Set in Algeria, in northern Africa, The Plague is a powerful study of human life and its meaning in the face of a deadly virus that sweeps dispassionately through the city, taking a vast percentage of the population with it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:11 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185139, 0141045515, 0141049235

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