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).