It’s an ironic time to read a book about the plague. Yet, it’s the perfect time to read this book. The Plague by Albert Camus is a book about a city which has been hit by the plague. We follow Bernard Rieux a doctor who has to treat the people in the city. The book gives an account of the life and actions of the people who are hit by the disease. And it is masterfully done. If you read it at this moment, you’ll see many analogies to how people are behaving at the moment. From the disillusionment of the people in the beginning of the plague to the fatalism which people find solace into the return to the word of God. It’s all there.
Now originally this book is actually an analogy for the second world war. The plague represents the war and thus we can see the city being struck by the disease called warfare. What Camus does brilliantly is showing how different people react to same things differently. In this situation, there are people trying to escape the city in order to return to their loved ones in fear of never seeing them again. There are people who just give up and accept their miserable fate which they believe to be death.
The book is a mirror to society. As I have said, not only does it show how people can react, it also shows the irrationality of society in a way. There are people who are waving away the disease like its nothing, saying it’ll blow over quickly and you have the people who are sure of certain death and ask for totalitarian actions. Both are extremes and the author takes a middle path.
I find it hard to review this book since it is so relevant at the moment. If I had read this in some other time, I might think different about the book. All the more to read it again in the future. But as with all of Camus’ books it shows the existential fear of human beings. The pit of nihilism we can all fall in and how important it is not to actually succumb to that feeling of despair. It is important to stay strong in times of dire need and to be supportive of each other. The true value of Camus is that he shows that there is meaning when all meaning has disappeared in the world.
Pick up this book if you want to find an explanation for the behavior that is going on and to inspire you to not give up hope. You might not find it in the book per se but you’ll find it in yourself.