The Plague Read-Along Update #1

I’m reading The Plague by Albert Camus as part of a read-along with Bookstooge and so far am quite enjoying it!

Part I

Suddenly in the port town of Oran in Algeria, rats begin to die.  Dr. Rieux happens upon the first rat, and from there, their numbers grow.  As the population of dead rats increases from a trickle to a flood, people start to sicken with fevers and swollen glands in the neck, armpits and groin.  The narrator introduces us to a man called Jean Tarrou, who is vacationing in Oran and claims that his notebooks will give an unusual window into the burgeoning epidemic. With the corpses beginning to pile up, it becomes more difficult to pretend the disease is anything other than the plague or a type of plague.  Dr. Rieux suggests that the information be released to the public, but Dr. Richard still attempts to minimize the crisis, and only signs with sparse information appear in town.  More deaths and the state of emergency can no longer be ignored.  The town is put into quarantine.

Thoughts:  The narrator was so careful to set himself up as credible.  He’s quick to declare that everything he relates will be able to be corroborated.   Tarrou is also described as a person who will give a unique perspective to the plague because he focuses on particulars instead of generalizations …… he’s a peculiar fellow and I wonder if his peculiarities will have some specific bearing on the story.  Cottard’s attempted suicide and his change of personality from introverted liberal to a friendly conservative is also puzzling.  I quite like Dr. Rieux so far; sensible and intelligent, with little time to suffer fools, he is so far very clear-sighted.

The manner in which Camus links and compares the response to war and plague gives the reader a very believable portrait.

“…… There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always the plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.  In fact, like all our fellow-citizens, Rieux was caught off his guard, and we should understand his hesitations in the light of this fact; and similarly understand how he was torn between conflicting fears and confidence.  When a war breaks out people say, ‘It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.’  But though a war may we be ‘too stupid’, that doesn’t prevent its lasting.  Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.”

So not only do we have a tragedy brewing, we have a little mystery mixed in with a dollop of varying personalities.  An interesting recipe to be sure!

10 thoughts on “The Plague Read-Along Update #1

  1. Part I is really short, so if you get going you could read Part I and II and just do a double post next week! Come on! We'd love to have you! And you read so fast anyway.

    I guess I should have done an introductory post but it was just something that came up and little did I suspect there would be interest. Well, now I know! Again, please join us! 🙂

  2. So glad you're reading this! It's one of the best books I discovered last year. That passage you posted about the war/plague was one of my favourites in the novel.

  3. I have read and really really admired Camus's The Rebel and The Stranger, but have not read this one. The starting however is very intriguing and I love the quoted passage. Adding this on to the TBR

  4. Ah, I hadn't heard of The Rebel; I must investigate! Thanks for adding another book to my list (yes, that sentiment is sincere and sarcastic both at the same time!). 😉

  5. I'm very glad I didn't know about this beforehand – I can never resist a readalong and I have enough happening right now. Have to confess I've never read anything by Camus but 17th century and the plague really appeals. Look forward to hearing more about it.

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