James Mustich's 1000 Books to Read Before You Die discussion

The Plague
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Group Reads (unstructured) > The Plague - August 2020

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message 1: by Marlise (last edited Jul 21, 2020 02:02AM) (new)

Sean (fordest) | 36 comments Finished this book this morning.

It was fascinating reading this right now. Being in the middle of this pandemic it was fun to notice little similarities and think about how things might be different if COVID was a little more deadly like this plague.

It made me wonder how many of our thought processes move along the same lines as those in Oran. Are we giving up hope? Are we beginning to feel like there is no end and what's the point? People are starting to party again. But not for the same reasons, I think.

At my job, I am very entrenched in the COVID reporting process that goes up the chain to all the bosses. I am not sure I would be dealing directly with any thing like this if I didn't have to be. I am no Dr. Rieux or Tarrou. I don't think I have that sense of duty.

I had always assumed The Stranger would be my first Camus. But I enjoyed this one as my first.

message 3: by Jane (new) - added it

Jane Huttner | 157 comments Reading this after the Covid-19 shut down was lifted in my city was interesting. The Plague shares several elements we used in the shut down but goes even farther. I liked how Camus portrayed different characters some who stepped up and did more than was required of them, while others didn't.

Hopefully we won't find ourselves in a plague epidemic next.

S.L. Berry | 9 comments I just finished this morning and like others, it was interesting reading during COVID-19. There were many parallels particularly when the plague morphed into the pneumonic version. The insight into the "media" reporting of deaths was enlightening.

message 5: by Nadra (last edited Aug 27, 2020 02:07PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nadra | 10 comments I feel very conflicted about this book and Albert Camus in general.

There were so many parallels that I felt and recognised in what we are all experiencing right now. Here are some of the passages that I found especially poignant :

"The trouble is, there is nothing less spectacular than a pestilence and, if only because they last so long, great misfortunes are monotonous. In the memory of those who have lived through them, the dreadful days of the plague do not seem like vast flames, cruel and magnificent, but rather like an endless trampling that flattened everything in its path."

Camus, Albert. The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) (p. 138). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

"The town was slowly cooking beneath a leaden sky. All the shops had their blinds down. The roads were empty. Cottard and Rambert took streets with arcades and walked along for some time without saying anything. It was one of those times when the plague became invisible. This silence, this death of colours and movement, could belong to summer as much as to the pestilence. One could not tell if the air was heavy with menace, or with dust and scorching heat."

Camus, Albert. The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) (pp. 107-108). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

An article that articulates it better than I ever could:


A bit of background .. I am Algerian-American. As a kid in the 80s, I spent my summers in Oran by the beach. I do not recognise the “ordinariness“ of the town “without trees or garden”, the town “which has nothing picturesque about it, no vegetation and no soul”. I have recently been back and it is still the verdant beautiful town of sea vistas and palm lined streets dotted with oleander and bougainvillea that I remember from my youth. Imagine a less polished San Diego with French architecture … or rather more like a Spanish seaside city like Malaga. In fact, Oran is very Spanish in culture. Most older people speak Spanish and our most common family gathering is a family paella! Here is a link with pix to give you an idea:


This dire description along with the fact that not a single Algerian was mentioned throughout the whole book other than an Arab being killed (this was a reference to The Stranger, another novel of Camus, in which that is the only mention of an Algerian as well) is completely bonkers to any Algerian reading this book. Granted, Algeria was considered just another state of France, like Hawaii, but wouldn't it be strange to base a book in Hawaii without a single mention of anyone (or anything) native Hawaiian?

After reading the book I was hoping to find that the plague was a metaphor for colonialism but was baffled to find, after reading the epilogue (which also made zero mention of Algerians) and several other articles on the book, that the plague was an allegory of German occupation. This is highly ironic considering that the French were an authoritarian force that brutally ruled over Algerians, often using torture, in a sort of apartheid state for over 100 years.

But then I read this and it made sense again to our political here and now, both in the UK where I live and America where I am from :

"When one unpacks Camus’ career and The Plague specifically, one finds not a roadmap for surviving Covid, but rather a statement about surviving a political period in which the very nature of the European liberal project was under assault by the forces of Stalinist Communism and Nazism—two of the most deadly threats to freedom of the last hundred years. In our world in which the left and right have staked out extreme, inflexible positions, with some seeming to reject much of the liberal project, there is much to be learned from Camus and The Plague today."


But then I guess what makes The Plague so powerful and popular, it is timeless and universal just as plagues are.

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 144 comments Nadra--

Very interesting to get your perspective on this book as an Algerian-American. Thanks for posting it.

To me, and I want to emphasize that this is just my opinion--I think the idea that The Plague is an allegory for the German occupation of France is overstated. You find it repeated a lot, but I think that it short-changes what Camus was trying to do, and I don't think he ever came out and claimed that for his book either.

I believe that Camus was trying to illustrate humanity's position here on Earth--that we are caught in a kind of trap where none of our actions ultimately make any difference. If that is so (and not everyone believes that it is), then what purpose could there be for struggling at all? Doctor Rieux and his companions are examples of different ways of looking at the problem. Ultimately, I think Camus was convinced that it was worthwhile to continue that struggle, even though I think he was equally convinced that it would make no difference. Camus never comes out and says one way or another, but I like to think of it as dignity.

message 7: by Karen (new)

Karen Witzler (kewitzler) | 26 comments Nadra wrote: "I feel very conflicted about this book and Albert Camus in general.

There were so many parallels that I felt and recognised in what we are all experiencing right now. Here are some of th..."

Nadra - thank you for this review. I have it to read in the near future and appreciate your background knowledge and viewpoint.

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