Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Plague

Title: The Plague

Author: Albert Camus

Number of pages: 297

Started: 3 July 2009

Finished: 8 July 2009

Opening words:

The unusual events described in this chronicle occurred in 194- at Oran. Everyone agreed that considering their somewhat extraordinary character, they were out of place there. Fir its ordinariness is what strikes one first about the town of Oran, which is merely a large French Port on the Algerian coast, headquarters of the Prefect of a French ‘Department’

Plot summary:

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a virulent plague
Cut off from the rest of the world, living in fear, they each respond in their own way to the grim challenge of the deadly bacillus. Among them is Dr Rieux, a humanitarian and healer, and it is through his eyes that we witness the devastating course of the epidemic.
Written in 1947, just after the Nazi occupation of France, Camus's magnificent novel is also a story of courage and determination against the arbitrariness and seeming absurdity of human existence.

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book, if it is possible to enjoy a book about a plague. It is quite a sombre book and I suppose a bit philosophical, although I didn’t find that particularly or find that it made it hard to read. I have also read Camus’ The Stranger and I preferred this book. It was sad in places but also quite stark and distant at times. It reported on mass deaths by acknowledging that the high numbers were no longer shocking after a while – and that some people managed to adapt to the new life imposed on them and some did not. The book is not an in-depth study if individuals but more of a look at the impact on a community and how they learn to cope and adapt. A touching read.


Sarah said...

I struggle a little with the word "existential" but your "determination in the face of absurdity" sums up rather neatly what I think I should understand by it.

"Enjoy" does seem almost inappropriate, but I enjoyed it also. The humanity and compassion are deeply moving...

I have to admit that I probably liked The Stranger a little better, mainly because it seemed more accessible. There were parts of the Plague that I found confusing. I haven't read any further Camus; I understand that he gets more philosophical... Have you/are you planning to read more?

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - I would never see a book being described as existential as a selling point, but I am glad I managed to get past that and read the book.

I think I preferred the plot to this book more than I did The Stranger. I quite like plots that take the normal and throw a crisis in, as was the case in The Plague.

Those are the only two Camus I have read, but I might read some more, as I like him more than I expected.