The Plague by Albert Camus is a 1947 novel that tells the story of a plague epidemic in the French Algerian city of Oran. The novel follows the point of view of Dr. Bernard Rieux, a doctor who works to help the citizens of Oran cope with the outbreak.
The novel is an existentialist classic and explores themes of mortality, suffering, heroism, language, communication, exile, and imprisonment.
The novel begins with the sudden appearance of thousands of dead rats in the streets of Oran. This leads to a mild hysteria among the population, and the authorities arrange for the daily collection and cremation of the rats.
Soon after, people start to fall ill with a mysterious disease, and it becomes clear that the city is facing a plague. The novel follows the characters as they struggle to survive the epidemic and come to terms with their own mortality.
The novel is a morality tale and a warning to all that the human race is bound to experience something like it again. It is also a reminder of the powerlessness of individuals to affect their destinies.
Camus’s philosophy is that within all of us exists a certain ‘plague’, the deep existential problem which states that at any moment our freedom, integrity and our own lives can be taken from us with any freak accident. Plagues and pestilences are just simply only one manifestation of this existential struggle.
The novel encourages readers to accept their human condition, i.e. their mortality, instead of running away from it through fear and distraction.
It also encourages readers to embrace their role on this planet with more modesty. The novel ends with a deus ex machina, reminding readers that plagues and pandemics always end in the real world, at least before we had antibiotics or vaccines.
- Appreciate and value families and loved ones
- Accept our human condition and mortality
- Embrace our role on this planet with more modesty
- Plagues and pandemics can return at any time
- Individuals are powerless to affect their destinies
What I Liked
So….I read this book back in 2009 and let this review sit in my Drafts folder until 2023. This book became a bit more relevant in the meantime. It made me appreciate it more.
I also liked that, even though it’s a depressing novel about horrific circumstances, it is Camus’ more uplifting and hopeful novel. I liked that.
What I Did Not Like
Not a whole lot – solid read.