The Plague

The Plague

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Overview

A haunting tale of human resilience in the face of unrelieved horror, Camus' novel about a bubonic plague ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679720218
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/1991
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 36,859
Product dimensions: 5.32(w) x 7.76(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile: 1070L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Born in Algeria in 1913, Albert Camus published The Stranger—now one of the most widely read novels of this century—in 1942. Celebrated in intellectual circles, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. On January 4, 1960, he was killed in a car accident.

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The Plague 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 102 reviews.
rmishou More than 1 year ago
Camus' classic is a must read. As much great literature does, this book works on several levels. It is a clear allegory about the dangers of fascism. The plague begins to appear with the dramatic increase in dead rats. The dangers are largely ignored until things have worsened and it is too late to stop the calamity. Couple this allegory with astute insight into the psychology of human nature and Camus' work borders on amazing. The town seems to resign themselves to their fate, barely fighting, as if already defeated. This book does not fall back to a typical medical thriller where the source must be found and millions are saved at the last minute. Instead, Camus has people die and react to the indiscriminate nature of the disease, killing young and old, rich and poor. As expected there are those who profit from disaster and those you have the money to buy the slowly disappearing food, but Camus resists the urge to cheapen his book with tricks and fabricated action scenes. This books is an intense, existential study of the human psyche in the face of a natural disaster or, allegorically, a dangerous, oppressive government bent on killing individuality and imagination. Camus leaves the reader with the chilling reminder that the plague can lie dormant for years and return at any time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Camus', The Plague, is a gripping novel that is definitely worth reading. Camus focuses on the human experience by illustrating the power that fear of an undiscriminating plague with terrible suffering has over an impersonal community the power to bring them together. At the time, the people in the city of Oran, in Africa were distant, lifeless, and cold until forced into cooperation in a fight for their lives to stop the spreading plague and counteract the terrible human suffering. With vivid imagery, Camus pulls the reader into the story and challenges what their mind can take. Visions of the Holocaust are seen through the way the people of Oran deal with the countless deaths caused by the plague. The narrator describes, 'The corpses were tipped pell-mell into the pits and had hardly settled into place when spadefuls of quicklime began to sear their faces and the earth covered them indistinctively, in holes dug steadily steeper as time went on.' The large amounts of deaths in Oran made the people and city loose all formality and personality in the deaths of their loved ones. Soon those people were just another body to bury among many. With the constant idea of death looming over the heads of people in the city of Oran they still found reason to push on, to beat the plague. The plague was soon taking no prisoners, it didn't matter if you were the wealthy or the poor of Oran your life was up for the taking. Camus writes, 'But once the town gates were shut, every one of us realized that all, the narrator included, were, so to speak, in the same boat, and each would have to adapt himself to the new conditions of life.' Read The Plague and experience the struggle for yourself!
DeDeFlowers More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of Camus. The Stranger and A Happy Death are two of my very favorite books. That being said, I had a very hard time with The Plague. The storyline is really great and I went into it with a good attitude, but I just could not for the life of me get into it. I thought it was really boring and strange to read. I could only read about half of it before putting back on the shelf. I probably will try again later. All this being said, it is obviously loved by most of the reviewers, so it must be good. And if you like Camus' other stuff you probably will also enjoy this. I just didn't.
FocoProject More than 1 year ago
I¿ll be forward about the fact that I am about to give this book a review it does not deserve. I am aware enough to know that even if I did not enjoy this book as much as it should have, the literary work is still very good.

The story itself interesting, dealing with a small town in Algeria (Northern Africa) which finds itself under the sudden punishment of the Plague. At first it is the dead rats that appear on the streets, eventually people succumbing and soon the gates to the city are closed and this community is forced to be isolated from the rest of the world until the malady retreats.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the subject matter or the characters, but rather, to me, the way it was written was not the most approachable of ways. Instead of allowing us to make a true connection with the characters, the author opts to narrate this almost in a journalistic fashion, which gives us a lot of facts from a detached point of view. The main character himself, who serves as the narrator, explains that this is how it will be done from the beginning and while it is effective, I found it less enjoyable than if the author had allowed us to become more personal with the characters.

The vocabulary used here is also above par, which makes it a bit slower reading, with deliciously stringed together sentences that somehow do not entirely lose their magic in the translation from French. So, if my review seems a bit lower than it should be, keep in mind that it was only because I personally found it to not be my type of reading. Some of you may think this book is much better and I would not think you wrong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book interesting, however, it is a rather dark read. The disease in the Algerian towm seems real and the characters pretty apathetic to their condition. No surprises or twists in the story line. A real treatise on city government control in a crisis.
Kathryn Nicely More than 1 year ago
Camus concerns himself with the hearts of men, and puts them in terrible situations to explore their reactions. Ultimately what he sees is that most don't see, but those who do strive ceaselessly for life. I imagine this translation loses what many consider his lyrical style, and thats to be expected, but at times it is tough to read. Certainly worth it, however.
Trevor Fraser More than 1 year ago
Those familiar with Camus will know what to expect in term of philosophy. There's a quote-worthy line on nearly every page. It's definitely a book to ponder, to absorb and to compare to your own life. But you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by the engaging storyline and warm, tactile characters. Not as depressing or internal as The Stranger or A Happy Death, this book plays like a good tv miniseries, with drama and humor in equal measure. The translation seems wordier than I think of Camus being, but it's rarely distracting. All in all a terrific read I look forward to reading again.
James_Blaze More than 1 year ago
Although a bit slow at times, this is a very good book that is worth reading. This book has a lot of characters that I found interesting and memorable. Like the characters, the text is very deep and philosphical, and I will probably have to read the story again to fully understand it.
seldombites on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an incredibly boring book. I laboured all the way to part three in the hopes it would improve, but I was sorely disappointed. The language is too dense and the style is condescending - I feel as though I'm being talked down to. The blurb states that this book is supposed to be a metaphor for the German occupation of France - I simply cannot see it. anyhow, this is not a book I would recommend.
samantha464 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like this book better than the Stranger. From Camus's description of the town folding in on itself as it basically rots from the inside out, to the lack of sentamentality surrounding an otherwise emotional situation, he manages to bring the existentialist message out of the story in such a subtle yet defined manner that the reader experiences the entire novel without even realizing the philisophical underpinnings. I also loved his almost missable reference to the Stranger about 2/3 through the book.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Plague presents so many layers of meaning that I find Camus entering the aerie realm of twentieth century writers inhabited by only the likes of Proust and Faulkner, Musil and Mann. On rereading I find that the trusted Random House Vintage paperback that I have read and reread is missing a key bit of text, the epigraph appended to the beginning of the novel by Camus. Its absence is inexplicable, especially since the same publisher has included it in the more recent collection of Camus' fiction for Everyman's Library. The epigraph follows:"It is as reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not!" - (Daniel Defoe, Preface to Volume three of Robinson Crusoe)The importance of this selection suggests Camus' story will be about more than the town of Oran in 194_ and points to motifs of imprisonment and existence. This is certainly worth considering as one enters Camus' fictional world as are most epigraphs. In his excellent survey of modern French writers, From Proust to Camus, Andre Maurois observes that:In The Plague Camus is mainly interested in the reactions of men faced with the collapse of everything they had believed to be secure: communications systems, trade, health. It is no longer a single Sisyphus but a city of Sisyphuses who themselves crushed by disaster.(p. 356)This aspect of the novel is certainly a rich topic for discussion as one nears the end of its second section. The work abounds with Sisyphean metaphors while even the structure demonstrates this theme as Camus has a virtual rebeginning at the start of the second part mirroring the opening of the novel and reminding us of the greater Sisyphean task before us. The failure of communication exists at all levels and we see reminders on almost every other page; for example in chapter 9 (the opening of Section two) we see "all these people found themselves, without the least warning, hopelessly cut off, prevented from seeing one another again, or even communicating with one another."In some sense the novel becomes one of creating a community within Oran to deal with the Sisyphean task of the ordeal of the Plague and the greater task of living one's life. The city and the people change as they try to deal with the cataclysm that has overtaken them. The community is infected and imprisoned and becomes obsessed with communication and the futility of communication with no response (more Sisyphus or merely the absurd?) The novel is written with simple complexity in that the seemingly simple prose reveals through careful analysis complexity that rivals any of Camus' favorite authors (Melville, Dostoyevsky, Kafka). The narrator claims to be writing a chronicle (see Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year), but there are contrasts and mysteries that arise immediately including the question of the identity of the narrator. On page 6 we read that "the narrator (whose identity will be made known in due course". When that will be will have to wait until quite near the end of the novel. At any rate the narrator claims to have access to both his own witness of events, the testimony of other eyewitnesses and documents that record the events (this will include a journal that forms part of the subsequent text). The first person to whom we are introduced is Dr. Rieux who encounters rats almost immediately, but does not think much of that. We wondered why, especially after he notices a bleeding rat, that as a doctor he does not think about plague and disease, but he does not and that will have to wait.
jasonlf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel grew on me more and more as I read it. But still seemed to fall short. It tells the story of the arrival and departure of the plague from a French-Algerian town in the 1940s, largely told through the eyes of a local doctor. It is nicely structured, beginning with the ominous signs of dead rats and ending with the return of first rats, then cats, and then dogs marking the departure of the plague. It is all observed in great, with a somewhat less than fully omniscient narrator, who focuses on the impact the plague has on social relations and social order.The observation is often very detached, the engagement with the characters distant and fleeting, which at times makes it more difficult to connect with the book.The Plague is commonly described as an allegory for the Nazi occupation in World War II, but I don't see much beyond some obvious superficial analogies.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The beginning of this book is surreal, and rather enchanting--Camus' masterful setting of scene is a delight, even if one does remember what's to come. Through the first part, I had difficulty remembering what I was slipping into, the book was so calm and enveloping. After that, I have to admit that at times the middle was slower-going, but by mid-way through Camus' style and characters had brought me back to the suspense of the beginning, to the point that putting down the book was nearly impossible.Certainly, this is a dark book, but for all of that it is also beautiful, hopeful, and nearly other-worldly in its telling, which is, of course, part of the point. The world here is meant to be both so far removed as to be readable, and seem far far away, while at the same time feeling too close for any true sort of distance. Camus' technique and prose here are wonderful, and the book is a necessary one. Absolutely recommended.
br77rino on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Bubonic Plague makes a comeback in an Algerian town. The town is quarantined, and the characters of a doctor and his patients and helpers share their thoughts. A bit boring to tell you the truth. I was expecting more.
pippity on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not exactly sure why this book grabs me the way it does, but I guess I find it to be an interesting and perfect mix between philosophy and literature, psychology and religion. It manages to be none of these and all of these at the same time. I'm not sure if any author so eloquently describes the human condition as Camus. The characters are interesting, complex and beautiful in their flaws as much as they are beautiful in their strengths. This book reads less like a dire end-of-the-world novel such as 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale (both excellent of course), and yet it does seem to make us think that our city, in our country, in modern times, could find itself in the same situation as the city in the novel (Oran), and we would behave much the same. People are people the world over, and nothing unites man, while simultaneously disunites man, the way pestilences do. In this way we see that Camus has used the plague backdrop as a way to highlight the good and the bad in all of us that manifeststs itself more subtly in normal life. I think this book is about as perfect as a book can be: Entertaining, well-written, great characters, readable on many levels... But most of all it makes you think.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read a modern update of this book, The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen and enjoyed it. I thought I would read the original, so I got this book. Then there was a Group Read on LT for the book. I had never done one before, so I joined.Its a good thing I did or I might not have finished the book. It wasn't actually terrible, but it was flat, dry and mostly boring. Hard to say if it was Camus or the translator. I realize that can be seen as heresy because its a classic, but old books usually don't work for me. The manner of writing seems to be at arms length and devoid of any feeling.The story was set in a seaside town in Algeria and tells the tale of a plague that comes over the town and how people are dying. The town is described in such a way that it seems to deserve to have bad things happen to it. The town is quarantined, and people have to survive or not on their own. The story follows the progress of the disease and the effect it has on the populace: how they live,how they treat each other, how they try to escape. First there is official denial of the depth of the problem, and then official action is all there is, carting people off, holding them separate if they have been exposed. There is rationing, shortages and hoarding. Some engage in debauchery, determined to have a good time on the way to the grave. There are medical and religious people who work tirelessly to help the suffering. Nursing is about all they can do, because there is no cure.The book is in the form of a journal kept of the events.There is one very moving passage, where a child dies, but mostly I don't care about the people or their battle with the disease.The time period seems to be before WWII. In fact the book could be taken as the symbolic story of the progress of evil/fascism (Nazism) that moves through a group of people. Too much like school reading for me to enjoy it.
mahallett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i see that most people really like this. i wanted to. last summer i read simone de beauvoir's autobiography and they were good friends before a falling out. but i wanted to edit this book. i found it too long and really not that interesting. also i hate allegories. if you want to say something, just say it. so i read this without the nazi intimations. my edition is an old one but i was the first reader and the cover broke when i opened it. now THAT is a plague. also almost no women or ALGERIANS in this story which takes place in FRENCH algeria i guess.
lyzadanger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having gulped "The Stranger" in a single, weird sitting, I was well-disposed toward the idea of reading "The Plague", more so even because many people I hold in high esteem in turn hold this philosophical allegory in high esteem. It started out wrenching enough, with creepy prognostications foreshadowing a grim fate for the dull denizens of the dull town of Oran on the Algerian coast.Plot counterbalanced reflection comfortably in the first half of the book. As the narrative advanced, however, it turned in on itself more and more, until it became barely a narrative at all, and more of a slightly didactic fable about the meaning of freedom and death. The Good Doctor Rieux toils against the immensity of Plague as bio-threat, but also against Plague as oppression, forced occupation, prison guard, persecution. Some citizens blandly accept the isolating quarantine of the town; some are agitated. Many avoid hope in fear of what it will feel like and how it will be disappointed. Bodies are thrown into lime-lined pits as the death rate outpaces the possibility of real funerals, coffins.An assortment of characters--all exceedingly male and French--perform as archetypes: shady Cottard who, once suicidal, thrives under plague conditions; sweet-hearted Tarrou who refuses to give in to even overwhelming iniquity; Father Paneloux, dead set that God has a handle on everything.Unfortunately, I am a blockhead. Especially when it comes to philosophy and abstract explorations of the human experience. I found myself disengaged, and finishing the book was a struggle. It did, however, ring out on a much more optimistic note than I would have expected.
BradleyJohnston on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I have read it several times and picked up on nuances I missed in previous readings. This said, it can be difficult to read but in doing so displays the absurdities of the human condition.
P_S_Patrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a novel set in the Algerian city of Oran, about how a group of people deal with a plague that besets the population, forcing the city to close. The story is used as an excuse to describe different states of the human condition, with different characters in the plot to showing different reactions at varying periods of the plot.The tone is existentialist, but not as dark as Kafka, and more predictable. As a story it didn't impress me, but as a piece of writing it was good.It didn't compare favourably with the other main work by Camus which I have read - the Myth of Sisyphus. The two have a similar message, but the Plague does not say it as well, and says less.
bas615 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can certainly understand why this book would turn people off. However, I find this book is the essential piece of literature for our time, and perhaps any other. Camus exposes the essential absurdity of our situation and continues to show the inadequacies of the way many deal with that absurdity. With Dr. Rieux we have an example of Camus's absurd hero. He has no way of fighting this disease and no way of understanding its wrath and yet he has no choice but to keep fighting. He knows one day the plague will leave but that in the meantime his expertise is useless. Thus he stands as an example of how all should live. He rebels against the disease in the only way he can without really hoping for success. However, success is of little significance in the work of Camus.Everyone will at some point be struck by the absurdity of life. Camus urges us to step up and fight for what is right regardless of this absurdity. The rebellion in full knowledge of the lack of hope is a necessary condition of life. Besides Dr. Rieux there is a secondary character that is continuously working on a book but can never perfect the first paragraph. Again here we have a rebellion that this man must keep working in the face of horrific pain and in the sure knowledge that as much as he would like to finish this book he will never be able too.There is another step that Camus takes when speaking about the church in Oran. Camus feels that when the absurdity is revealed it must strip away the pieces of our lives used as crutches. The church serves to try and explain those most difficult parts of our lives. Here in the face of this horror Camus uses Dr. Rieux to show the inadequacy of its explanation. The church here serves as source of comfort that obscures the unsettling facts of the situation. Camus finds this unacceptable and believes real freedom of the mind comes without these filters.This book was tremendously important in my life and while I can see its problems, Camus exposed a new realm. I plan on reading this book again soon and its message to me at this point may well be different but I still find this first reading very influential. I recommend this to anyone and everyone. Even if you hate the book I can understand that but it explains a worldview of significance in our complex modern world.
bokai on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When rats begin dying in legions in the small coastal town of Oran, it citizens are disgusted but otherwise uninterested. When cases of bubonic plague begin to crop up in the population, the officials hesitate to overestimate the severity of their predicament. When the plague at last becomes too pervasive to ignore and the entire city is quarantined, the citizens of Oran go about their business and try their best to live normal lives in the face of horrible epidemic.Camus' The Pague follows a small collection of men in the city, each of whom reacts to the Plague in different ways. We have the reporter Rambert, who spends his time trying to escape back to his wife in Paris, the criminal Cottard who takes solace in the fact that everyone else is now suffering as much as he has suffered, and the doctor Rieux, who accepts the facts of the plague and does what he feels is the only thing there is to do, fight it wherever it reveals itself, among others. While the plague is real and terrible in the book, Camus is not simply writing about a single epidemic. The lifeshaking event of the plague is not the terror itself in his novel, but rather a giant focusing crystal through which people are forced to look at the essence of our everyday lives. It shocks the characters and the readers into contemplation of what has value in their lives and how we should live when living is so full of struggle and uncertainty.This isn't a book all about a plague and what it does to a city, it's a book about a city and what it does when faced with the plague. It is not a gut wrenching horror novel, but a book for serious contemplation. It is literature written to provoke thought in the reader, and if the reader is not interested in taking the ideas of The Plague and applying them to their own everyday life, the value of The Plague will be be lost on them.The greatest part of this novel is in its dialogue. The characters in The Plague are all symbolic of particular mindsets, and their discussions are not just discussions between people but interactions of various ways of thinking. As a quick example here is a chat between Tarrou and Rieux, the two men who probably have the greatest understanding of each other in the book.==="What do you think of Paneloux's sermon, Doctor?"The questions was asked in quite an ordinary tone, and Rieux answered in the same tone."I've seen too much of hospitals to relish any idea of collective punishment. But, as you know, Christians sometimes say that sort of thing without really thinking it. They're better than they seem.""However, you think, like Paneloux, that the plague has a good side; it opens men's eyes and forces them to take thought?"The doctor tossed his head impatiently."So does every ill that flesh is heir to. What's true of all the evils in the world is true of the plague as well. It helps men rise above themselves. All the same, when you see the misery it brings, you'd need to be a madman, or a coward, or stone blind, to give in tamely to the plague."===You can flip to any page in this book and find similar dialog, all contemplative and struggling with the reality of the plague and life. I've yet to read a work of existential thought so well crafted or that illuminated my own philosophy so well. The Plague will not be for everyone. It is critical of certain aspects of religion, can be considered extremely depressing or nihilistic, and anyone looking for a 'page turner' will not find any narrative suspense to keep them interested here. This is a sober thinker's book, and one that I have mentally shelved (face forward) as reference as I continue my philosophical education.
crazybatcow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I know it's a classic which is why I hated to not finish this book. But, in the end, it's just too dry/boring/naive to spend any more time on.I know it's set in the 1940's, so maybe that's why they are so dumb? Let me see, a bunch of rats come out of the sewer and die, then people start dying and we just stand around and wonder if it's a plague... HELLO!The style is dry (i.e. boring and un-engaging). You never get to care about any of the characters, so what does it matter if they all die in a plague? Again, I don't know if this is due to the era in which it was written, or the language it was originally written in, or maybe the author is just boring.Anyway... if it wasn't a classic, I don't think I'd give it more than one star.
Matt_the_Cat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I guess Camus is supposed to be the prototypical existentialist novelist. I also guess I don't like existentialist novels. I liked this book even less than I did The Stranger. There was no plot to speak of. There was also relatively little character development or characterisation at all. The characters that there are seem relatively like stock beings, and we do see them react to and change in response to the plague, but we only see this on a superficial level, I think, never really getting inside any of the characters' internal lives. Perhaps this is because, for existentialists, there's "nothing" there.
esoteric on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found the detached, journalistic style to be really at odds with Camus' often darkly beautiful prose. Thematically, The Plague has a much wider scope than The Stranger, but The Stranger managed to address its philosophical themes in a much more concise way. I see fiction as a poor place to expound on philosophy and that's ultimately where The Plague fails in my opinion.