The Plague

The Plague

Book - 1991
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"Its relevance lashes you across the face." --Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times * "A redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair." --Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post

A haunting tale of human resilience and hope in the face of unrelieved horror, Albert Camus' iconic novel about an epidemic ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature.

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr. Rieux, resist the terror.

An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, The Plague is in part an allegory of France's suffering under the Nazi occupation, and a timeless story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1991, c1948.
ISBN: 9780679720218
Branch Call Number: F CAM
Characteristics: 308 p. ; 21 cm.
Additional Contributors: Gilbert, Stuart
Call Number: F CAM


From the critics

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Mar 23, 2021

Just finished reading this classic. I cannot comment on the accuracy of the translation from French, as I have no knowledge of that, but I can say that I found this book relatable to current COVID-19 circumstances in many ways. The characters in the story respond to extremely difficult circumstances that resulted due to a virus that started out by killing the rats in the town. How it affected normal living practices in the town, and individual people shows the evolution of human character and spirit based on the individual responses to the circumstances. Some people struggled mightily with the restrictions imposed on them due to the town’s efforts to contain the virus. Some get to work managing the treatment of the sick and dying, and the practical problem of what to do with more dead bodies than can be handled in the usual way. One particular character finds meaning in his life via the plague. As have been mentioned before, there are some eerie similarities to our COVID-19 experiences in this 1948 book. Everyone in the town was affected by the plague, as have each of us with the current viruses that have so changed our experience of life.

Feb 02, 2021

I just finished reading this book. The translation is TERRIBLE. Isn't there any other translation of this book that is better? I know some French, but not enough to read this novel. However, I do happen to own a copy in the original French. As I was reading, I tried to compare the original with the translation. They were widely divergent.
In spite of this, I think this is powerful novel, although somewhat too long. The ending is disappointing.

Sep 10, 2020

Among the details provided for this item, there seems to be no information about the translator(s). But if this is the 1948 Stuart Gilbert "translation," well then it is more of a retelling of the story than even a "loose translation."

Amazingly the Gilbert recounting (translation would be a misuse of the term) has for decades seemingly been "THE" English version. There has been at least one other translation (by Robin Buss) into English which just has to be superior to Gilbert's, but Gilbert's seems to predominate and to be the only one in bookstores. (Occasionally it occurs me to me to check and that's what I ALWAYS find.) That is a GREAT pity.

Both the original and the Gilbert retelling are out of copyright and available as PDFs several places on the internet.

May 16, 2020

Post-World War Two in Oran and the plague comes to the North African city. Gates are closed, the town is quarantined, hundreds die. A valiant doctor records the events and the metaphysical discussions about God allowing suffering. Eerie how much the plot and actions sound like our current coronavirus.

Mar 13, 2020

Like the other 2020 reviewer I came across this book as a result of COVID-19 (I had read The Stranger, but nothing else by Camus). It may be an allegory of the Nazi occupation of France – as others have suggested - but I read it mostly as a study of the various ways in which humans confront death (or natural tragedies, which are outside of humans’ control and the reasons for which are beyond human understanding). Different characters in the book seem to represent different religious, scientific and philosophical ways of looking at death, and of living one’s life knowing that death is inevitable.
For me, this book didn’t “take off” until around Part 4, which is when I stated to appreciate all the themes being touched upon. I was drawn in from then on and finished the last third of the book quickly, after a slow start. I’d seen some negative reviews about this particular translation, and I did find the writing somewhat disjointed at times (of course, the potential to be prejudiced is a downside of reading reviews before reading a book - wish I could read French to determine if this is indeed a translation issue or just Camus’s writing style). And parts where the “the narrator” speaks about himself in the third person struck me as overly contrived and detracted from the gravity of the book. But overall, I am glad I read this and recommend it to anyone interested in the themes mentioned.

Feb 05, 2020

I have always been a big fan of The Stranger, but had not read anything else by Camus. It was a strange time to be reading this one with the scary virus that has been terrifying the world the last couple of months.

Though I enjoyed the book a lot, I feel it would have been even better if about 75 pages had been shaved off. It was almost too descriptive. Be prepared to spend some time with this one, as it will make you think about how you would handle this. Recommended, for sure, but not for the faint of heart.

Oct 15, 2018

only one doctor in dark and his patience ++

Doctors should read this one. Doctors should write reviews.

Sep 22, 2018

only one doctor in dark and his patience

RogerDeBlanck Jun 30, 2018

This timeless classic takes place in Camus's homeland of Algeria. The story is a parable of the Nazi occupation of France during the war. Camus portrays the inhumanity of the Nazis through an infectious disease carried by rats that threaten the coastal city of Oran, Algeria. The novel's most illuminating aspect is the profound force of human compassion and decency it portrays. Camus shows us the citizens of Oran demonstrating selfless courage and strength to resist the suffering brought upon them by the strange and fatal disease. The central character of Dr. Rieux embodies many of the important ideas Camus advocated throughout his life concerning the resilience and integrity of the human spirit. Camus's ideas of the absurd also resonate strongly throughout this novel. The Plague is among his best books.

Dec 26, 2017

Allegorical novel that seems to match Nazi occupation though the philosophies and human conditions that Camus is describing in the novel match that of an occupation. Well thought out and constructed novel that provides a good deal of contemplation. Worth reading if you are interested.

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Apr 05, 2020

"Everybody knows the pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise."

Apr 05, 2020

"A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven't taken their precautions. Our townsfolk were not more to blame than others; they forgot to be modest, that was all, and thought that everything still was possible for them; which presupposed that pestilences were impossible. They went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views. They fancied themselves free, and not one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences."


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Jul 03, 2012

The plague hits a small town in North Africa and the town is quarantined - no one is allowed in or out. It is interesting to watch as people change during the ordeal - some start out very self-centered and end up trying to help others. Many die as the plague runs its course, but even those who survive are changed by the ordeal.


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