Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Camus: The Plague

Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913 in Mondovi, French Algeria (now Dréan, Algeria). His father died ten months later in one of the early battles of World War I. Camus and his mother then moved to a poor area of Algiers. He developed tuberculosis when he was 17.

Somehow he managed to earn his first degree in 1935 and a second in 1936. He became politically active. He remained politically progressive, working for greater peace and justice, his whole life.

During World War II, Camus worked for the newspaper of the French Resistance. In 1947 he published his thoughts on the war in a book called The Plague. In 1957 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in a car crash on January 4, 1960, at the age of 46.

The Plague was his best story and one of the best novels written in the 20th century. It is about evil and about how we as humans respond to it.

The story takes place in a large city. The people of that city are hit by the plague. This disease moves quickly, kills easily, and has no cure.

As with all waves of evil, the people of this great city are not expecting a plague. When it first starts, they do nothing. They do nothing when doing something good but different would have stopped it.

The plague gets worse and worse. The city is closed. No one can leave. The number of people inside the city who are dying grows day by day.

Then, as quickly as it started, the plague goes away. Life returns to normal.

Camus’ book is so good because he looks at the ways we humans respond to evil. In the book, most people think only of themselves. Some of these eat, drink, and party, thinking they will die the next day. Some work hard to get out of the city. Some get very religious, thinking the plague was sent by God to punish bad people. Some make lots of money smuggling food, alcohol, and cigarettes.

But a few people take care of others who are sick. They do this even though there are more sick people than they can take care of. They do this even though the sick people they care for usually die.

The Plague: a book about a city hit hard by a wave of great evil. But also a book about how a few ordinary people responded creatively to this evil with great goodness.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.