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The Plague (1947)

by Albert Camus

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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18,579249265 (3.95)2 / 605
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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» See also 605 mentions

English (199)  Italian (10)  Dutch (10)  Spanish (8)  Catalan (4)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (243)
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
It's one of these books that are extremely difficult to rate for me, because I personally hated it, but I still think it was a great book, well-worth reading. I'm happy that I read it, but I don't think I'll ever reread it. ( )
  Donderowicz | Mar 12, 2024 |
it was like a dance ( )
1 vote 1ucaa | Feb 12, 2024 |
Read this book when I was maybe 15 or so in translation, along with the stranger

This time, read it again in French right on the heels of L’Etranger

A fine work with lots of insight into the human condition during times of ever present mortal danger, of course so *relevant* at a time like this, one of global pandemic and widespread death, although the mortality of the plague in question is much higher than current figures for COVID-19

I’m assuming that this book, centered on the stoic Dr Rieux is sort of l’inverse of L’Etranger. Whereas Mersault lives a life devoid of intention, alienated from even his own desires, Rieux chooses a life of activism. Camus is careful to differentiate this activism from one based on religion or ideology - it seems we are to understand Rieux as someone (like Mersault) carried along on a certain kind of current. What makes the good doctor different from the hapless narrator of L’Etranger is that his boat has a rudder.

Regardless of the fact that I’d much rather hang out with Bernard Rieux than Meursault, I think L’Etranger is the better book. What makes the story of Meursault so disturbing is that some variation of his story happens to so many people all over the world everyday- in fact, if you don’t take action to steer your life, it’s likely to happen. Despite Rieux saying to Tarrou in an eminently quotable line that he doesn’t strive to be a saint but rather a man, this book sometimes verges on a kind of existential hagiography. I guess we are supposed to see the doctor as a kind of exemplar for the rational man striving against absurdity and death, and he certainly plays this role well. But I think this is where the book shows it’s age. Camus was writing on the heels of Allied victory in WW2 and French liberation from fascist domination. The afterglow definitely seeps into La Peste, and it’s a far more optimistic book than L’Etranger. I can’t help but feel like this book’s vision of human nature has soured a bit in the intervening 70 years, not to mention that for a book based upon valorizing humanism, it barely touches on the colonial situation in French Algeria, and reduces every female character to a kind of cardboard cut out. Camus would probably be scandalized by the fact that the experience of Meursault is more relatable than that of Dr. Rieux to a modern reader. But it feels to me that the world is being overwhelmed by multiple plagues, both physiological and ideological, and there are not enough Dr. Rieuxs to turn the tide. ( )
  hdeanfreemanjr | Jan 29, 2024 |
"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."

The Plague is one of those essential books that I didn't read when I was younger and is part of a literary bucket-list. It's also one of those books that I puzzled over as I read it. I didn't find the book depressing at all - In fact, I found it quite hopeful and bucolic. I took away love, friendship, civic duty and hope. As I read the reviews of others, I realized that other people saw despair, hopelessness and crisis. I'm still confused by it.

Camus was an atheist and an absurdist. Since I am also both of these things, I have to believe that I read it correctly.
( )
  rabbit-stew | Dec 31, 2023 |
The general idea of The Plague is familiar; the Algerian port of Oran, then a department of France, was suddenly struck by a deadly plague in 194_.

The unnamed narrator tells us Oran is an ugly boring town, with nothing really to recommend it except steady employment - "a thoroughly negative place, in short". He then says the banality of the place lends an air of "discomfort" to anyone dying.
Think what is must be like for a dying man, trapped behind hundreds of walls all sizzling with heat, while the whole population, sitting in cafés or hanging on the telephone, is discussing shipments , bills of lading, discounts!

If it was that awful in normal times, imagine what it would have been like during an epidemic.

Disease appeared slowly. Rats stumbled out of their holes and died in the streets. The populace for the most part chose to ignore it. Daily, however, the numbers increased, and then inevitably people started falling ill and dying, with the unmistakeable signs of bubonic plague.

Oran was shut down by the distant government. No one could get in or out. Remarkably, the plague did not spread outside its borders. Within them though, what followed is familiar to today's reader: isolation, quarantine, makeshift hospitals for the sick, expanded graveyards, social unrest. Oddly, all the characters are male. Any females were out of town at the beginning of the novel, and unable to return.

I wish I had read this book before 2020, and then read it again now. Would it have seemed farfetched before, or would it have read like an allegory? Would it have seemed possible?

Reading it now, the reader knows it is all too possible. This has the effect of dulling any political message Camus might have had, and making it seem more like the straightforward diary the narrator presents it as. As the year went by, some citizens came forward, forming groups to hold the community together, while dealing with instructions from a distant France, finally aware of the problem. Many of the citizens died, others lived through it.

The narrator's identity is revealed at the end, as is his motivation; "to state quite simply what we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise." There is a warning here too: "Nonetheless, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of final victory." People will be called upon again and again "...'in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts."
1 vote SassyLassy | Dec 17, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 199 (next | show all)
Extraordinary....There are things in this book which no reader will ever forget.
added by SaraElizabeth11 | editSpectator
Of such importance to our times that to dismiss it would be to blaspheme against the human spirit.
added by SaraElizabeth11 | editNew York Times Book Review
A perfect achievement.
added by SaraElizabeth11 | editNew Republic
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.
added by Lemeritus | editWorldCat Abstract

» Add other authors (58 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Camus, Albertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brueziere, MauriceEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buss, RobinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chacel, RosaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corsari, WillyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dal Fabbro, BeniaminoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, StuartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jenner, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Judt, TonyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mannerkorpi, JuhaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mannerkorpi, JukkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meister, Guido G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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'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).
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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
"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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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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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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