Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Plague by Albert Camus (4.5/5)

The back says: Cut off from the rest of the world, living in fear, they each respond in their own way to the grim challenge of the deadly bacillus. Among them is Dr Rieux, a humanitarian and healer, and it is through his eyes we witness the devastating course of the epidemic.

Written in 1947, just after the Nazi occupation of France, Camus’s magnificent novel is also a story of courage and determination against the arbitrariness and seeming absurdity of human existence.

I say: I love Camus, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with this. However, as much as I love the way he writes, in The Plague he did one of the things that irk me to no end; he had a narrator who was overly familiar with the reader.

Hence the 4.5/5 – I just can’t overlook that annoyance, no matter how brilliant the novel was.

And I was near perfection.

As the synopsis says, the plague breaks out and the town of Oran, a large French port on the Algerian coast, is closed off from the rest of the world. As we follow a few select people through this ordeal we learn the different ways they all react to the threat of death and the inability to escape.

And it is in there that the genius of the story lays.

One of the main reasons I love Camus is because he makes me think, and not just from my own perspective, but that of his characters, who usually are very different from me. I am not going to go into this whole debate whether or not this should be classified as an existentialist novel (Camus himself has always maintained that he was not an existentialist) or an absurdist novel (which I would more refer it to as, considering Camus’ definition of the absurd and the sequence in which things happen).

Because we have so many different characters, I don’t really feel the need to map them all out here. The general idea, as I read the novel, is that they all represent, more or less, different schools of philosophical thought, which is apparent in the way that they behave and react to the plague and the imprisonment. Among them we have the absurdist (Dr Rieux) who doesn’t really show his feelings, but is determined to help as many people as he can. We also have a priest (Father Peneloux) who says that the plague is a punishment from God and even though we cannot explain the death of an innocent child, we must still accept it as the will of God.

And so on and so forth.

I’m finding it hard to speak about this novel without being too blatant with my own philosophical beliefs, but that is one of the reasons why I love Camus and will continue to re-read his works. Like I said, he makes me think - and there's really nothing better an author can do for me (except maybe laugh and cry).



*This is my eleventh entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my 100 Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long - although this is not a part of that challenge).

8 comments:

  1. I read this in high school and really enjoyed his writing. Of course the book was really realistic and made me feel sad about all the suffering characters. I couldn't help but wonder what I would do if my family and I were in that town. So scary! But I didn't really get the philosophical implications of the different characters. I think I was too young for that. Still, I love Camus and his writing style.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I kept thinking about what I'd do in that situation as well, but it's hard to imagine.

      Oh, I love philosophy and tend to apply it everywhere, but you get so much out of the book even if you don't take it that far. The story can really stand on it's own.

      Delete
  2. I wasn't familiar with the story matter at all before I saw your post. I love when authors can make you think a bunch too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, thinking is the best (at times - other times you just want to dream yourself away).

      Delete
  3. I think I read this about 8 years ago when I started the author A-Z challenge the first time. I don't remember too much about it but I do remember Dr Rieux and I do remember that I very much enjoyed it. I doubt I would have seen the philosophical aspects though. My mind doesn't work like that although I certainly would have recognised that each character had a different perspective and would have loved that part of it. Great book (and great review).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's probably the residue from studying philosophy and especially loving nihilism, existentialism, and absurdism. I'm re-reading a lot of Camus and (soon) Sartre because I was a rather pretentious teen and I want to see if I still feel the same way about the texts. They're really just labels, and noticing that they all react in a different way is totally getting it but not being able to name the school of thought.

      Delete
  4. Hmm...I have listed The Stranger for my Classics Club Project, but reading your review, I think I would prefer The Plague than The Stranger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it depends on what you're after. I have a review of the Stranger/Outsider from last year if you want to compare my review with this one. I can't choose between the two works as they invoke different feelings in me.

      Delete