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The Plague Paperback – May 7, 1991
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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.
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. -- The New York Times Book Review, Stephen Spender --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
When Camus explores his ideas by actually showing us how the characters interact with each other, the book is quite compelling. However, there are long stretches when he sidelines into descriptions of the townspeople's behavior in general that amount to thinly veiled philosophical diatribes--which are not bad in themselves, but didactic philosophy is not fiction, and it's quite lazy for Camus to set out with the premise of dramatizing his philosophy, then to sidetrack into merely talking about it.
Overall, though, the book is a great read, the ideas are thought-provoking, and the characters--when we get to spend time with them--are very compelling. Not perfect, but a book everyone should read.
But, the difference in writing styles is as interesting as the books' message. Camus' book begins somewhat fatalistic and offers little hope for resolution. No explanation is given for the beginning or ending (remission, I guess one would say) of the plague. Although written by a somewhat detached "narrator", the reader is still drawn into the story and becomes friends (of sorts) with the characters and is very moved by their struggles.
Camus has an expert grasp on writing. His prose reads almost like poetry, with each word chosen to add depth and description and each sentence structured to cause the reader to slowly enjoy and admire the text.
In many ways The Plague seems sparse or even languid with characters drifting helplessly against the invasion of the disease. But behind this there is much for provoking thought. We are confronted with our inability to make sense of war and disease although we also seem unable to stop trying to make sense of these.
While the narrator claims that there are no heroes in the fight against the plague, clearly there are those who work deligently against the disease while expecting no reward. So we are left to question what is the moral obligation, during times of crisis. Should one grab a chance for happiness or do what is needed?
Each of Camus characters are interesting and as in the slow build of story and events, Camus slowly builds the characters aroung their words and actions until the become quite intriguing people who we want to keep with us after their story is over. One such character is Tarrou, who comes to Oran shortly before the plague and seems to have no particular purpose. While talking to Dr. Rieuxabout the plague he says,"each of us has the plague within him;no one, no one on earth is free from it. and I know, too, that we must keep endless watch on ourselves lest in a careless moment we breathe in somebody's face and fasten in infection on him. What's natural is the microbe. all the rest--health, integrity, purity (if you like)--is a product of human will, of a vigilance that must never falter.
Whether The Plague is about disease, WWII, or the absurdity of the human condition, I found it to be a worthy read and one which will stay with me.
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I purchased this audiobook because I'm into apocalyptic/dystopian books and thought from the cover that this is what the...Read more