AUTHOR: Albert Camus DATE READ: March 10 -16, 2014
TITLE: The Plague PUB. DATE: 1947
GENRE: Literary Fiction PAGES: 278
PACING: leisurely paced, engrossing
CHARACTERIZATIONS: vivid, detailed
STORY LINE: character-driven, complex, thought-provoking
FRAME: depressed, haunting, moody
PLOT SUMMARY: In the Algerian city of Oran, while many people are starting to become ill and die, the city’s authorities are unwilling to accept the possibility that there is an epidemic of the bubonic plague. After the death toll rises, the government takes precautions and places the city under quarantine. Oran citizens are cut off from the outside world and families are no longer able to see their loved ones. The community starts to panic as they feel isolated, fearful of the epidemic, and fearful of death. Many focus on their own personal situations and regret not living their lives fully before the plague outburst. On the other hand, Dr Rieux and a few of his acquaintances are dedicated to fighting the epidemic by caring for the sick, supporting the community and believing in helping the greater good rather than focusing on their own situation. After almost half of Oran’s population die, the community changes their way of thinking. With the high probability that they may all die, the citizens develop a sense of unity. They have come to the realization that the focusing on the greater good is more important and meaningful than only worrying about their personal needs and desires.
Geographical setting: Oran, Algeria
Time period: 1940’s
Subject headings: Plague – Fiction
Disease Outbreaks – Algeria – Fiction
Plague – psychology – Fiction
SIMILAR AUTHORS: Jean–Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka, Haruki Murakami, Soren Kierkegaard
/* Starred Review */ By the Frenchman who, with Sartre, shares a leading position in European literature, this is a work of considerable significance and stature, distinguished by its clarity, its composure, and above all, its scrupulous classicism. The story focuses on the outbreak of plague in Oran in the year 194-, as it reaches epidemic proportions. The author traces the crescendo of human emotions from panic to the almost unendurable agony of isolation and death. The argument extends beyond the physical impact of the plague into metaphysical terrain with the realization that each one of us carries within us the plague of injustice, of inhumanity…Distinguished by the precision, the purity of its writing, the dignity of its presentation. It may command critical rather than popular attention.
(Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1948)
The Plague is parable and sermon, and should be considered as such. The Plague stands or falls by its message. The message is not the highest form of creative art, but it may be of such importance for our time that to dismiss it in the name of artistic criticism would be to blaspheme against the human spirit.
(Books of the Century; New York Times review by Stephen Spender, August 1948)
The Nobel prize-winning Albert Camus, who died in 1960, could not have known how grimly current his existentialist novel of epidemic and death would remain. Set in Algeria, in northern Africa, The Plague is a powerful study of human life and its meaning in the face of a deadly virus that sweeps dispassionately through the city, taking a vast percentage of the population with it. (Amazon.com Review)