Albert Camus’s “The Plague”, 1

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a real intellect, and his “The Plague” is the story of our time. Camus was one of the wise guys in 1940s and 1950s. In 1957, he received the Nobel Prize for literature, but it’s not as important as Camus’s open mind. His attack on Stalinist Communism in “The Rebel” (1951) ended his friendship with (stupid) Sartre, who at that time still supported Stalin. . Albert Camus was not a lunatic left, like the other stupid western intellects of his time. Camus was briefly a member of the Communist Party, but very soon saw the depth of their stupidity. In 1940, he became involved in the Resistance movement against the occupying Nazis, and he began writing for the underground newspaper Combat in 1943. He also published his first major works. The Plague (1947) is one of them. ‘The Plague’ is Albert Camus’s most successful novel. It was published in 1947, when Camus was 33, and was an immediate triumph . Within a year it had been translated into nine languages. It has never been out of print and was established as a classic of world literature even before its author’s untimely death in a car accident in January 1960. The Plague is the book by which Camus is known to millions of readers. In “The Plague”, Camus wrote about the plague of his own time, i.e. “Nazism and Fascism” and its roots. The Plague is an allegorical story. The Plague is the story of our time in 2010s, too. As Camus said” The plague bacillus never dies or vanishes entirely; it can remain dormant for dozens of years in furniture or clothing; it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers, and perhaps the day will come when, for the instruction or misfortune of mankind, the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city .” Now let’s take a look at excerpts of “The Plague”, that is an allegorical story of our current world. Our excerpts are a very compact version of “The Plague”, and will be published in four parts. Here are the first part:

“Oran is an ordinary town … It has to be said that the town itself is ugly. Its appearance is calm and it takes some time to appreciate what makes it different from so many other trading ports all over the world … A convenient way of getting to know a town is to find out how people work there, how they love and how they die … That is to say that people are bored and that they make an effort to adopt certain habits. Our fellow-citizens work a good deal, but always in order to make money. They are especially interested in trade and first of all, as they say, they are engaged in doing business. Naturally, they also enjoy simple pleasures: they love women, the cinema and sea bathing . But they very sensibly keep these activities for Saturday evening and Sunday, while trying on other days of the week to earn a lot of money. In the evenings, when they leave their offices, they gather at a set time in cafes, they walk along the same boulevard or else they come out on their balconies. The desires of the youngest among them are short and violent, while the lives of their elders are limited to clubs for players of boules, dinners of friendly associations or groups where they bet heavily on the turn of a card … Something more distinctive about our town is how difficult it can be to die there. ‘Difficult’ is not actually the right word; it is more a question of discomfort. It is never pleasant being ill, but there are towns and countries which support you in sickness and where one can, as it were, let oneself go . A sick person needs tenderness, he quite naturally likes to lean on something. But in Oran, the extreme climate, the amount of business going on, the insignificance of the surroundings, the speed with which night falls and the quality of pleasure, all demand good health. A sick person is very lonely here … You will understand what could be disagreeable about death, even a modern one, when it happens in such a dry place. Even so this meager information may give a sufficient idea of our town. In any event, one should not exaggerate. It is important to stress the ordinariness of the town and its life. But one easily passes the time away when one has a routine. To the very extent that our town encourages routine, one might say that all is for the best. Admittedly, seen like that, life is not too exciting. At least disorder is unknown among us. And our people, open, likeable and energetic, have always elicited a fair degree of respect from travelers … By now, it will be easy to accept that nothing could lead the people of our town to expect the events that took place in the spring of that year and which, as we later understood, were like the forerunners of the series of grave happenings that this history intends to describe. To some people these facts will seem quite natural; to others, on the contrary, improbable. … On the morning of April 16, Dr Bernard Rieux emerged from his consulting-room and came across a dead rat in the middle of the landing. At the time he pushed the animal aside without paying attention to it and went down the stairs . But once he was in the street it occurred to him that the rat should not have been there and he turned back to inform the concierge. The concierge’s, Old Michel, reaction made him still more aware of the incongruity of his discovery. To him the presence of this dead rat had seemed merely odd, while for the concierge it was an outrage. In fact, the man was adamant: there were no rats in the house. However much the doctor assured him that there was one on the first-floor landing, probably dead, Michel’s conviction was firm. There were no rats in the house, so this one must have been brought in from outside. In short, it was a practical joke . That same evening Rieux was standing in the corridor of the building, looking for his keys before going up to his flat, when he saw a large rat emerge hesitantly from the dark depths of the corridor, its fur damp. The creature stopped, seemed to be trying to get its balance, stopped again, spun round and round with a faint cry and eventually fell, blood spurting from its half-open lips. The doctor looked at it for a moment, then went upstairs. “The next day, April 17, at 8 o’clock, the concierge stopped the doctor as he went past and accused some jokers of having put three dead rats in the middle of the corridor. They must have been caught with large traps because they were covered in blood. … Rieux was intrigued and decided to start his rounds in the outer districts where the poorest of his patients lived . Here the rubbish was collected much later in the dayand his car, driving along the straight, dusty roads of this area, brushed against boxes of rubbish lying on the edge of the pavement. In one street he drove down in this way the doctor counted a dozen rats, tipped out on the dirty rags and vegetable peelings … Rieux was soon to find that the whole district was talking about the rats .”

“When he had finished his visits he went home … The telegram was to tell Rieux that his mother was arriving the next day. She would be looking after her son’s house while his sick wife was away … Rambert came straight to the point. He was doing an investigation for a large Parisian newspaper about the living conditions of the Arabs and wanted information about their state of health. Dr. Rieux told him that their health was not good … The doctor told him that there was an intriguing report to be written about the number of dead rats that were turning up in the town at the moment. … The next morning, April 18, the doctor was bringing his mother home from the station and found Michel looking even more poorly: from the cellar to the attic, there were a dozen rats lying on the stairs. The dustbins in the neighboring houses were full of them. The doctor’s mother was not surprised when he told her. ‘Things like that happen.’ … Rieux phoned the district rodent control service, where he knew the director. Had he heard about these rats which were emerging in large numbers and dying in the open? Yes, he had been informed; they had even discovered more than fifty of them in his own offices, which were not far from the port … His cleaner had just told him that they had picked up several hundred dead rats in the large factory where her husband worked. In any event, it was around this time that our townspeople started to become concerned. Indeed, from the 18th onwards, factories and warehouses began to produce hundreds of bodies of dead rats … That was the day the evening papers picked up the matter, asking if the civic authorities intended to do something, or not, and what emergency measures had they planned to protect the public from this disgusting infestation. The authorities had not considered or planned anything at all, but started by holding a council meeting to discuss it. An order was given to the rodent control service to collect the dead rats every morning at dawn. When the collection was over, two of the service’s vans should take the animals to the waste incineration plant to have them burnt. Despite this, in the days that followed the situation got worse. The number of rodents picked up continued to increase and the harvest was greater morning by morning. After the fourth day the rats started to emerge in groups to die. They came up from basements and cubby-holes, cellars and drains, in long swaying lines; they staggered in the light, collapsed and died, right next to people. At night, in corridors and side-streets, one could clearly hear the tiny squeaks as they expired. In the morning, on the outskirts of town, you would find them stretched out in the gutter with a little floret of blood on their pointed muzzles, some blown up and rotting, others stiff, with their whiskers still standing up. In the town itself you found them in small heaps, on landings or in the courtyards of houses. They also came to die, one by one, in council offices, in schoolyards, sometimes on the terraces of cafes. Our fellow-citizens were amazed to come across them in the busiest parts of town . The parade-ground, the boulevards and the sea-front promenade were contaminated by them at intervals. Cleared of its dead animals at dawn, the town got them back through the day in increasing numbers. More than one person walking at night along the pavement would experience the feeling of the elastic bulk of a still fresh corpse under his feet … Things got to the point where Infodoc (the agency for information and documentation, ‘all you need to know on any subject’) announced in its free radio news program that 6,231 rats had been collected and burned in a single day, the 25th . This figure, which gave a clear meaning to the daily spectacle that everyone in town had in front of their eyes, disconcerted them even more. Up to then people had merely complained about a rather disgusting accident. Now they saw that there was something threatening in this phenomenon , the extent and origin of which was not yet clear to them … However, on April 28 Infodoc announced a collection of around eight thousand rats and anxiety reached its peak in the town. People called for radical measures, accusing the authorities of inaction, and some families who had seaside homes were already talking about escaping to them. But the following day the agency announced that the phenomenon had abruptly stopped and that the rodent control service had gathered only an insignificant number of dead rats. The town heaved a sigh of relief. Yet it was on that same day, at twelve, that Dr Rieux, pulling up in his car in front of his block of flats, saw the concierge at the end of the street, walking along painfully, his head bent forward, his arms and legs akimbo, like a puppet. … Rieux looked into the dark corners of the corridors and asked Grand, the civil servant, if the rats had entirely vanished from the area. Grand had no idea. Certainly people had spoken a good deal about the business, but he paid very little attention to rumors in the neighborhood …The vendors of the evening papers were shouting that the invasion of rats had ended

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