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Books Read in 2017-2018 > The Plague - Spoilers

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message 1: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the book freely!


message 2: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments In the book A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning one of Camus' biographers summed up the writer's approach in the following way:

"[Camus] was a moralist who insisted that while the world is absurd and allows for no hope, we are not condemned to despair; a moralist who reminded us that, in the end, all we have is one another in an indifferent and silent world."


This side of Camus seems to be in its most obvious form when he wrote in a French Resistance paper "Combat" the following to a hypothetical German soldier in Nazi occupied France:

"Where lay the difference? Simply that you readily accepted despair and I never yielded to it. Simply that you saw the injustice of our condition to the point of being willing to add to it, whereas it seemed to me that man must exalt justice in order to fight against eternal injustice, create happiness in order to protest against the universe of unhappiness. Because you turned your despair into intoxication, because you freed yourself from it by making a principle of it, you were willing to destroy man’s works and to fight him in order to add to his basic misery. Meanwhile, refusing to accept that despair and that tortured world, I merely wanted men to rediscover their solidarity in order to wage war against their revolting fate."

I think that The Plague is best read within the context of this view of Camus.


message 3: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments For a more supernatural and allegorical take on nearly the same story you could read Camus' play "State of Siege" found in the book Caligula and Three Other Plays.


message 4: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
MJD wrote: "For a more supernatural and allegorical take on nearly the same story you could read Camus' play "State of Siege" found in the book Caligula and Three Other Plays."

Thank you MJD for all this wonderful information. I didn't have time to research anything. Many thanks. 😊


message 5: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments One reason why this is one of my favorite books is that it firmly rejects notions of utopia, a "final victory," and "living happily ever after" after overcoming an obstacle. But, at the same time this rejection does not lead to a nihilistic casting aside of responsibility (such as "why bother cleaning up since everything will get dirty again").

This is summed up best in the last two paragraphs:

"Nonetheless, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their upmost to be healers."

"And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightenment of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city."


message 6: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
MJD wrote: "One reason why this is one of my favorite books is that it firmly rejects notions of utopia, a "final victory," and "living happily ever after" after overcoming an obstacle. But, at the same time t..."

Thank you. Again! 😁


message 7: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
I've read the first two chapters. Chapter one was, interesting. Lots of rats dying. Unfortunately I'll have to read chapter two again. There was too much noise and confusion going on around me that I know I didn't comprehend anything that I read. To be continued. 😊


message 8: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) I’m just getting started too, and I can tell this book will be interesting. First impression is that I’m definitely getting a more scientific/matter-of-fact tone from Camus rather than an emotional or religious tone. If Myers Briggs had been applied to the author, my guess is that he would have been an INTJ - introvert - intuition - thinking - judging, personality type.

I’m looking for forward to the discussions!


message 9: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Another element of the story that I like is the downplaying of heroics of the people involved, along with a distaste for striving towards utopia ("...the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory").

I think that this goes along with Camus' stance against political violence (i.e. violence on booth sides in the Algerian conflict) and totalitarianism (be it Hitler's or Stalin's), in that belief in one's heroic cause of creating utopia on Earth can lead one to justify just about anything that seems necessary to achieve that goal. Camus seems to be clearly saying such in his play "The Just Assassins (Les Justes)" (which is in the book Caligula and Three Other Plays), in which a terrorist justifies the murder of children to create utopia.


message 10: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
MJD wrote: "Another element of the story that I like is the downplaying of heroics of the people involved, along with a distaste for striving towards utopia ("...the tale he had to tell could not be one of a f..."

Interesting thoughts on the book MJD. I definitely want to read Caligula at some point too.


message 11: by Gini (new)

Gini Spring has finally arrived where I live. That reminded me of this book and the long endurance of a difficult situation except without all the dead stuff...that's winter to me. 😉


message 12: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
I finished Part One. I'm finding Camus's writing a bit boring.


message 13: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) I agree Loretta. The writing style to me is like reading a medical journal. I’m following the story just fine, but it is like Camus has taken the humanity out of what is a human plight.


message 14: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "I agree Loretta. The writing style to me is like reading a medical journal. I’m following the story just fine, but it is like Camus has taken the humanity out of what is a human plight."

That's exactly right Matt! I'm following the story too, what there is of it at this point.


message 15: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) Just a quick observation - one thing I’m noticing a lot as I’m reading is how many times that Rieux has bumped into someone or that someone has brushed past him. I assume it is just used to add to the suspense, but it seems to be happening a lot. Maybe personal space, (or lack thereof) is a cultural thing in the region where the story is set? It’s probably nothing important to the plot.


message 16: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "Just a quick observation - one thing I’m noticing a lot as I’m reading is how many times that Rieux has bumped into someone or that someone has brushed past him. I assume it is just used to add to ..."

But maybe it is...🤔


message 17: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) I just finished Part 4 of The Plague. I liked the symbolism of Grand’s struggling over the manuscript of his book - (especially the first line), then Grand telling Rieux to throw the manuscript into the fire. That destroying of the old was a death of sorts, and then Grand’s recovery from the plague and his statement that he remembers most of what he had written and will start over was sort of a resurrection. It was a simple “out with the old, and in with the new” symbol, but for me as a reader, I needed something to grab onto to help redeem the novel as a whole, because, imo, it has been quite tedious throughout. I’m planning to finish this week.


message 18: by Lia (new)

Lia Matt wrote: "That destroying of the old was a death of sorts, and then Grand’s recovery from the plague and his statement that he remembers most of what he had written and will start over was sort of a resurrection..."

That sounds exactly like the kind of things Sisyphus would do. 🤔

Must we imagine Grand happy?


message 19: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Lia wrote: "Matt wrote: "That destroying of the old was a death of sorts, and then Grand’s recovery from the plague and his statement that he remembers most of what he had written and will start over was sort ..."

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays by Albert Camus


message 20: by Debra (new)

Debra  | 20 comments I am finally digging in now. I had to return the copy I had due to the print being so small. Now I have a book I can read without getting eye strain. This does feel a bit dated to me and I like how Matt described the writing. It does feel a bit clinical. I like what Matt said
"like Camus has taken the humanity out of what is a human plight."

I hope to finish this by tomorrow evening.


message 21: by Debra (new)

Debra  | 20 comments Matt wrote: "Just a quick observation - one thing I’m noticing a lot as I’m reading is how many times that Rieux has bumped into someone or that someone has brushed past him. I assume it is just used to add to ..."

you know I was still reading the book when you mentioned this and then as I read, I could completely see what you meant. Lots of getting bumped into/brushed past. I wonder if he was also showing how people were caught up in their plight, being cut off from loved ones, and the possibility of their own death, that they were walking aimlessly or caught up in their own thoughts.


message 22: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) Yes, Debra, I think you’ve got it. Camus describes the people in the city as almost being in a haze about midpoint of the novel, and what you said fits right in to that aspect of the plot.


message 23: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1170 comments This is my favourite work of Camus. The narrator has a difficult and lonely life because his wife is in a sanatorium and he has to deal with the plague. Yet he never complains and does what he needs to in order to help the plague victims.


message 24: by Loretta, Moderator (last edited Aug 23, 2018 06:51PM) (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "This is my favourite work of Camus. The narrator has a difficult and lonely life because his wife is in a sanatorium and he has to deal with the plague. Yet he never complains and does what he need..."

Not a big Camus fan. Read The Plague and The Stranger. I think I'm done.


message 25: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Rosemarie wrote: "This is my favourite work of Camus. The narrator has a difficult and lonely life because his wife is in a sanatorium and he has to deal with the plague. Yet he never complains and does what he need..."

I am in complete agreement with you.


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