Albert Camus has a unique authorial voice, feels like seedy Eastern Eurpeanism to me. I knew there’s a bit of crudeness in that. Camus born and breed a French Algerian has more Mediterranean and African roots than Eastern European. It’s a global, placeless voice though. It makes it great reading because it feels modern. And technically I guess it is modern but The Plague smacks of old world, village life story telling as well.
What are cities? The fabric, composite nature of cities brings with it endless ocean of detail, where everything and nothing really matter. Existentialism seems to be questioning if things matter or not. Triviality and significance. City seems to be a good symbol of this, if not the cause and machinary itself.
There’s space in his stories, emtpy streets, alleysways. That randomly burst with real activity and characterization. I had read The Stranger before, and then read somewhere in some dirty little corner of the intenet where book junkies go to plot I was recommended The Plague. It’s got the energy of great fiction easily digested, terrifyingly, true. There’s a quality narrator, a voice speaks from direct experience. There’s mention of other primary documents, that are the basis for the testimony.
The city that pulsating, simmering thing is pulled up, constructed for the reader. We tortured right along with the reader as rats invade the space. Rats which disturb normality, and forewarns the intelligent that there there’s a problem. Dr. Bernard Riuex, treating the early plague victims, slashing buboes and draining them, tries to get the city to do something drastic to prevent the mass death, but they just can’t overcome half measures.
It’s a dark trying book. It captures the spirit of how terror like that creeps in, with disbelief and insanity. To what end? I ask what’s the point? For Camus? His Contemporary audience? Us? All of us, why do we subject ourselves to it? In fictional ways and otherwise. We are the town in The Plague, we hear an endless accounting of the death and tragedy and we keep buttering our bread and enjoying our meager pleasantries. How the hell do we do it?
Even sane Dr. Riuex starts to look funny. Why didn’t he run when they wouldn’t listen. To his wife, who is eventually cut off from him under quarantine. What man could adminster service under that horror. And still claim reason and good sense. What sort of good sense does the reader have in continuing either?
Later…a bird flew in the house. It had bombed me earlier in the mud room. I was just about to warm Brit too, later in the evening, just as it flew in. We spent an eternal twenty minutes or so trying to get the damn thing out of the house. It flew up to our bedroom where it made feverish laps around the place. It woke up two of kids, and had everyone erupting in insane laughter.
I tried to Jedi trick it out. Coax it out with me words. When that didn’t work we turned to individual exertion. She tried to catch it with a box. I tried to slap it with the broom and the dustpan, and then assumed a baseball player stance and hoped to hit it out the window right as it flew by. All to the delight of two children. As always, the solution rested in cooperation. I ditched the broom and grabbed a blanket. She kept the box and as it perched on the door we were able to box and wrap it. Then we got it outside. No big deal.
It’s funny how much out of place animals freak us out. How our mind say this one, slobbering and flatulating canine, is great, but this one nice bird is no good. It’s what Camus is writing about. Diseased things. Things that cause us dis-ease. Birds carry disease, right?