Rakhi Dalal's Reviews > The Plague

The Plague by Albert Camus
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, albert-camus

I read “The Plague” right after reading “Swann’s Way”. Of course it wasn’t a deliberate move. But as I moved on, I realized that reading of ‘The Plague’ had rendered something quite remarkable in the way I realized and appreciated both works. Both works embody a reality. ‘Swann’s Way’ speaks of the reality that is long gone by and one wish to remember and cherish, whereas, ‘The Plague’ makes one more acutely aware of the bleakness of actual reality when imposed through an epidemic such as plague. This book speaks of the things that are, rather than things that were. Swann’s way had left me completely mesmerized, longing for the bygones. But The Plague left me assessing the actual approach which governs human beings when faced with discomforts in life.

The first thing that strikes in the work is the avoidance of acceptance of pestilence on the part of people of the town of Oran. Albert says,
“Pestilence is in fact very common, but we find it hard to believe in a pestilence when it descends upon us. There have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared”. He further adds that because pestilence doesn’t have human dimensions, people refuse to believe it, thinking of it as a bad dream which would end soon. Perhaps people do not wish to accept its onset, for the reason that they have far greater faith in life itself. But when they have to, it results in utter misery on their part. The beauty of the work lies in the depiction of different approaches adopted by different individuals during plague. Whereas some people engage in serving the disease ridden, some try to make more money by smuggling liquor and other desired goods. Some people are melancholic, whereas some try to find happiness in between.

What I found further intriguing, were the words Camus employed to express the thoughts conveyed by the Priest, as regarding religion and God during Plague. Consider these two addresses delivered by Father Paneloux; one, at the beginning of the epidemic and the other, after months of suffering.

First one starts as:

“My brethren, a calamity has befallen you; my brethren, you have deserved it……Since the beginning of history, the scourge of God has brought down the proud and the blind beneath His feet. Think of this and fall on your knees.”


Second one ends as:

“My brethren, the love of God is a difficult love. It assumes a total abandonment of oneself and contempt for one’s person. But it alone can wipe away the suffering and death of children, it alone makes them necessary because it is impossible to understand such things, so we have no alternative except to desire them. This is the faith- cruel in the eyes of man, decisive in the eyes of God-which we must try to reach. We must try to make ourselves equal to this awful image”

In the first address, the Priest is so certain about the ways of God, but the second address clearly depicts the vagueness, as the consequence of severe sufferings due to pestilence. How little does religion/God matters when humanity faces such pandemic! Camus has skilfully captured the inner tumult which the Priest went through while coming to terms with the harsh reality. The reading was quite overpowering. It was further augmented by the reference to Bois de Boulogne at some places during the narration. Grand, an aid to Rieux, read the first line of his writing to Rieux. What was beautiful was the effect it created, producing in mind the consequence of anxiety and the desperation to escape.

Rieux was listening at the same time to a sort of vague humming sound in the town, as if replying to the whistling flail of the Plague. At this particular moment he had an extraordinary acute perception of the town spread out at his feet, the enclosed world that it formed and the dreadful cries stifled in its night. He heard Grand’s muffled voice: ‘On a fine morning in the month of May, an elegant woman was riding a magnificent sorrel mare through the flowered avenues of the Bois de Boulogne’

I think that Camus, who is touted as an absurdist for his writings on the subject, has very profoundly articulated the idea of absurd through this writing as well. The idea that he presented in The Myth of Sisyphus, that of the need to seek clarity and meaning within a world which offers neither, has been expressed in these lines for me.

“All that a man could win in the game of plague and life was knowledge and memory. Perhaps that was what Tarrou called winning the game!...But if that is what it meant to win the game, how hard it must be to live only with what one knows and what one remembers, and deprived of what one hopes.”
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Reading Progress

May 12, 2012 – Shelved
February 26, 2013 – Started Reading
February 26, 2013 –
page 42
13.64%
February 26, 2013 –
page 42
13.64% ""There have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars,yet plague and war always find people unprepared." Pg.30"
March 2, 2013 –
page 101
32.79% ""And this is something that a man like yourself might understand;since the order of the world is governed by death,perhaps it is better for God that we should not believe in Him and struggle with all our strength against death, without raising our eyes to heaven and to His silence"....."
March 4, 2013 –
page 150
48.7%
March 6, 2013 –
page 169
54.87% "'I have a different notion of love; and to the day I die I shall refuse to love this creation in which children are tortured.'...."
March 7, 2013 – Finished Reading
April 5, 2013 – Shelved as: favorites
October 7, 2014 – Shelved as: albert-camus

Comments Showing 1-48 of 48 (48 new)

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Praj I simply love Camus. His writings are mesmerizing.


Rakhi Dalal Praj wrote: "I simply love Camus. His writings are mesmerizing."

Me too,Praj! Just love his writing.


message 3: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Wow, fantastic review! Great examples to. (view spoiler).Great stuff!


Rakhi Dalal s.penkevich wrote: "Wow, fantastic review! Great examples to. [spoilers removed].Great stuff!"

Thanks,Sven! I am afraid I haven't heard about it being a Nazi allegory. Now that you have mentioned, I might as well look about it :)


message 5: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich I may be wrong. I should probably join you in reading this and find out. Camus is amazing, and I have a sweet hardcover of this that has been waiting for me for years!


message 6: by Garima (new)

Garima Great review Rakhi! The only reason I want to give a chance to Camus asap simply coz you really like his books. Which one you'd recommend I go with as my first Camus?


Rakhi Dalal s.penkevich wrote: "I may be wrong. I should probably join you in reading this and find out. Camus is amazing, and I have a sweet hardcover of this that has been waiting for me for years!"

Don't let it wait any further! Grab it and read it :)


Praj A KISS and HUGS for a wonderful review !!!!I can read Camus at any given time.


Rakhi Dalal Garima wrote: "Great review Rakhi! The only reason I want to give a chance to Camus asap simply coz you really like his books. Which one you'd recommend I go with as my first Camus?"

Thanks, Garima! I would recommend "The Stranger" first, though I started with The Myth of Sisyphus myself :) But I guess it is important to read his books before proceeding with the essays.


Rakhi Dalal Praj wrote: "A KISS and HUGS for a wonderful review !!!!I can read Camus at any given time."

Thanks,Praj! I feel the same for Camus :) Just love his writings!!


Rakhi Dalal s.penkevich wrote: "I may be wrong. I should probably join you in reading this and find out. Camus is amazing, and I have a sweet hardcover of this that has been waiting for me for years!"

You are right,Sven! Check this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Plague

Thanks for pointing it, I should have read that before :)


Kalliope Rakhi wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "I may be wrong. I should probably join you in reading this and find out. Camus is amazing, and I have a sweet hardcover of this that has been waiting for me for years!"

You are..."


Yes, this work is taught in schools as an allegory on Nazism in particular but also on other political (totalitarian) systems in general.


Rakhi Dalal Kalliope wrote: "Rakhi wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "I may be wrong. I should probably join you in reading this and find out. Camus is amazing, and I have a sweet hardcover of this that has been waiting for me for ye..."

Thanks,Kalliope! This does make sense now that I think about it.


message 14: by Garima (new)

Garima Rakhi wrote: "Garima wrote: "Great review Rakhi! The only reason I want to give a chance to Camus asap simply coz you really like his books. Which one you'd recommend I go with as my first Camus?"

Thanks, Garim..."


Then, The Stranger it will be :)


message 15: by Megan (new)

Megan Fantastic review Rakhi, this book seems really interesting!


Rakhi Dalal Thanks, Megan! It is indeed engrossing!


message 17: by Traveller (last edited Apr 05, 2013 02:22PM) (new) - added it

Traveller What a remarkable review! I love the comparison between Proust and Camus, and your unique observations here. :)


message 18: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Excellent, Rakhi! (as in your review - less is more :D).


Rakhi Dalal Traveller wrote: "What a remarkable review! I love the comparison between Proust and Camus, and your unique observations here. :)"

Thanks for the kind words,Trav! Perhaps it was my chance reading of the book after Swann's way, which led me to compare both works :)


Rakhi Dalal Scribble wrote: "Excellent, Rakhi! (as in your review - less is more :D)."

Thank you so much,honey!!


message 21: by Jocelyne (new)

Jocelyne Lebon That's terrific, Rakhi! You are making Camus converts.


Rakhi Dalal Jocelyne wrote: "That's terrific, Rakhi! You are making Camus converts."

Thank you so much,Jocelyne :) He is one who has been instrumental in my understanding of things, so I shall be happy doing that :)


Rakhi Dalal Jon wrote: "With this one review, you have made me want to reread everything I have by Camus. And I will.

The extracts are beautifully chosen: you take us to the heart with keyhole surgery, and I think your c..."


Thanks for the kind words,Jon.I am glad it made you wish to reread Camus :)


Rakhi Dalal Jon wrote: "Have you read The Revolt?"

No, not yet! It's got to be my next Camus. Have you read it? What do you think about it?


Rakhi Dalal Jon wrote: "I strongly recommend it! Let's see which one of us posts their review first ..."

Challenge accepted :)


message 26: by Uday (new) - added it

Uday Desai What a great review!! As usual Rakhi!
Next thing I will pick a copy of "The Plague" and start reading it :)

Thanks again for beautiful review.


Rakhi Dalal Uday wrote: "What a great review!! As usual Rakhi!
Next thing I will pick a copy of "The Plague" and start reading it :)

Thanks again for beautiful review."


Thank you,Uday! I am glad it prompted you to read the work :)


Lynne King Excellent Rakhi. I love Camus!


Ramesh Nice review. I had read Swann's Way a month ago and really struggled. Your comparing it to The Plauge (almost) makes we want to give it another chance.


Rakhi Dalal Ramesh wrote: "Nice review. I had read Swann's Way a month ago and really struggled. Your comparing it to The Plauge (almost) makes we want to give it another chance."

Thanks,Ramesh. I am glad you liked The Plague. Of course Swann's Way asks for more than a reader might be interested in giving but in my view the effort is worth it :)


Rakhi Dalal Cheryl wrote: "Your first paragraph was illuminating! The last quote was a perfect summation of your premise...that the two classics were bookends to your reading experience. Loved all of it. Thank you very much ..."

Thanks,Cheryl. Camus has never disappointed me. Always love his writings :)


message 32: by Aditi (new)

Aditi Very insightful!!


Rakhi Dalal Aditi wrote: "Very insightful!!"

Thanks!


message 34: by Aditi (new)

Aditi Rakhi wrote: "Aditi wrote: "Very insightful!!"

Thanks!"


Welcome:)


message 35: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Russell Very fine review, Rakhi.

From Swan's Way to Rat's Way -- that's quite the transition.

I still recall a few lines from the novel, although I read it 40 years ago:

That one aspiring novelist who continually tools his first line, something about riding down the street in a carriage (if I remember correctly).

Also, an old man saying, almost with glee, "They're coming out now!"


Stephen P You deal Rakhi with such huge ideas and the beauty is how simply and clear you put them forth. I really valued the distinction you made between Proust and Camus', the past vs. survival in a meaningless present, as well as his The Myth of Sisyphus, "...that of the need to seek clarity and meaning within a world which offers neither."

Hats off to Spenk. I never heard the reference to Nazism. It does fit. It will also make a re-read that much more interesting.


Rakhi Dalal Glenn wrote: "Very fine review, Rakhi.

From Swan's Way to Rat's Way -- that's quite the transition.

I still recall a few lines from the novel, although I read it 40 years ago:

That one aspiring novelist who c..."


Thank you for your kind words, Glenn :-)


Rakhi Dalal Stephen wrote: "You deal Rakhi with such huge ideas and the beauty is how simply and clear you put them forth. I really valued the distinction you made between Proust and Camus', the past vs. survival in a meaning..."

I am humbled, Stephen. Thanks. But it is the writing of Camus which is so inviting and thought provoking i.e. his ideas and his quest. He is the only author who has such influence upon me :-)


Stephen P Rakhi wrote: "Stephen wrote: "You deal Rakhi with such huge ideas and the beauty is how simply and clear you put them forth. I really valued the distinction you made between Proust and Camus', the past vs. survi..."

That says much. I will definitely have to read and re-read more of him.


message 40: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Hundley Hi Rakhi,

just finished reading the Plague and reading Swann's Way now. I'm deeply impressed with both classic works myself and thinking about the French milieu. In terms of style, they are very different. But they both address sentiments relating to man's longings. They are both very compelling.


Rakhi Dalal Ben wrote: "Hi Rakhi,

just finished reading the Plague and reading Swann's Way now. I'm deeply impressed with both classic works myself and thinking about the French milieu. In terms of style, they are very d..."


Thanks for taking out your time to read and comment,Ben. I hope you had a great time reading Swann's Way :)


message 42: by TROY (new) - rated it 4 stars

TROY CROWHURST Hello Rakhi, you write passionately about your reading which is great. I note you were moved by the change in tone of Paneloux' sermons. With his 'working for the salvation of mankind' his very human and vulnerable last words to Rieux I found very moving ' ...priests have no friends. they have given everything to god.' Hope at some stage to read some Proust. Enjoy your reading x


Rakhi Dalal TROY wrote: "Hello Rakhi, you write passionately about your reading which is great. I note you were moved by the change in tone of Paneloux' sermons. With his 'working for the salvation of mankind' his very hum..."

Thanks for sharing the quote which moved you. I am greatly influenced by Camus hence any work by him that I review is a passionate affair for me. Thanks for taking out your time to read it and leaving a comment . Hope you read some Proust soon :)


message 44: by TROY (new) - rated it 4 stars

TROY CROWHURST Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Hello Rakhi, you write passionately about your reading which is great. I note you were moved by the change in tone of Paneloux' sermons. With his 'working for the salvation of mankind'..."
When you have a mo, tell me if you know anything - have you read? - the novel he was writing when he died? X


Rakhi Dalal TROY wrote: "Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Hello Rakhi, you write passionately about your reading which is great. I note you were moved by the change in tone of Paneloux' sermons. With his 'working for the salvati..."

When he died, he had with him the incomplete manuscript of " The First Man" ( almost an autobiography) and it was later published too. I don't know about any other book he was writing.


message 46: by TROY (new) - rated it 4 stars

TROY CROWHURST Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Hello Rakhi, you write passionately about your reading which is great. I note you were moved by the change in tone of Paneloux' sermons. With his 'working fo..."

This is the book I was thinking about. If you have read it, did you like it? It was only recently that I heard mention of it. x


Rakhi Dalal TROY wrote: "Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Hello Rakhi, you write passionately about your reading which is great. I note you were moved by the change in tone of Paneloux' sermons. With h..."

Yes, I have read it and liked it too. It gives a peek into the author's childhood , his relationship with his mother and other events which had an effect upon him.


message 48: by TROY (new) - rated it 4 stars

TROY CROWHURST Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Rakhi wrote: "TROY wrote: "Hello Rakhi, you write passionately about your reading which is great. I note you were moved by the change in tone of Paneloux' se..."
Thanks Rakhi..I shall read it in due course X


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