Book of da Week: Albert Camus’ The Plague

Albert Camus The Plague
Albert Camus truly dramatic The Plague.

Sheesh, it’s some serious stuff this thyme with Albert Camus’ masterpiece The Plague (pronounced: plag-yew-ee). It’s one of those existential majiggers (although he denied he was such a fiend) which you really couldn’t escape in the 20th century as the philosophy was all over the place like the… plague.

It were published in 1947 which, for those of you who don’t know history, were just after the Nazi occupation of France. The plot deals with the town of Oran which is stunned by the outbreak of bacillus plague, and its inhabitants (led by protagonist Dr. Rieux) contemplate life when a horrible, absurd death is but a step away.

The Plague

Naturally it’s an allegory for having one’s country taken over by lunatics, but The Plague’s turned into a rather prescient piece of writing. Even now, in 2018, you could apply it to your local community, city, country, or planet should you so wish. It’s an exposé of the human condition, you see, but above everything else it’s an effing incredible book. How good? Camus won the Nobel Prize in Literature. So there.

Camus was more concerned with the Absurd – the absurdity of existence. He went into deeper detail with this in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus (where Sisyphus builds a shed at the bottom of his garden each day, only to see it blown up by ASBO seeking youths – the next day he begins the process again, ad infinitum). The Fall and, of course, The Outsider make up his canon of Absurdistic (a proper word) leaning.

Sadly Camus died in Burgundy aged only 46 after a car crash, having ironically stated the most ridiculous way to die would be to such an accident. This denied us literary addicts a great many more classic novels. Bugger.

2 comments

  1. We once had to read this in Literature class. The Hebrew translation pulls word so ancient that Abraham didn’t use.

    I have Sisyphus and man! Philosophical langauge is hard. I must get through it, though. There seemsto be great stuff there.

    • The translation into English isn’t particularly good in this instance, I believe. The translator uses “in short” over and over. I’m sure Mr. Camus didn’t in the French original. Parceque c’est tres bon. Innit, yo yo!

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