Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Plague - Albert Camus

 Albert Camus was born in Algiers in 1913, worked as a journalist, a  resistance leader who edited the underground newspaper Combat when Germany occupied France. He is a Nobel Prize winner (1960) and was killed in a car accident in 1960.

The novel is set in a French Algiers town called Oran (which previously suffered from outbreaks of plague though in the 1800s). Camus begins his novel with the dying rats and clear signs of a bubonic plague. Dr Bernard Rieux is the first to call out the plague thought the town administration is reluctant to. His wife, who is unwell leaves for a sanitarium near the sea to recover. Soon, the town is shut down as deaths increase everyday and there is no hope as the little town has no resources to cope with the disease. Rieux fights on, doing his duty patiently and tirelessly as the entire town is cut off from the outside - its gates closed and guarded.

Rieux meets various people in the face of this daily danger of death - Tarrou, a visitor who hasa high moral code and accepts a role in the town's fight willingly, Rambert, a young journalist who is caught in the town and who tries to escape it but changes his mind, Grant, who is writing a novel and who symbolises the common man's spirit and Cottard, a stranger to the town, has a secret which is protect as long as the plague lasts. And of course there is Paneloux, a priest, who starts thinking that if tehre's god, he should not consult a doctor even in his illness and succumbs to it. Rieux's wife dies too, as do Paneloux and Tarrou and Cottard.

The plague and its effects are so similar to the pandemic we are witnessing and Camus describes it in wonderful detail - the condition of the patients, the fearful nature of their relatives, the quarantining of suspected cases, the mental make up of those who contract the disease, the weariness of the townspeople as the disease shows no sign of waning and the sudden nature in which it vanishes, taking some and leaving some unexpectedly. The approach of each of the main characters to the plague and their role in it is shown superbly and reflects in the effect they have on the final outcome. Thanks Anjali for gifting me this wonderful book.            

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