Saturday, August 19, 2006

book of books - the plague


This book is the third Albert Camus title to be reviewed this week and unlike the others has not only a few more characters, including the town of Oran, but also has a story that is more accessible than perhaps The Outsider or The Fall.

plot summary
Set in an Algerian port town of Oran, which is run by the colonialist French the town is struck by the plague. The disease, which carries on for months not only kills thousands but keeps the town cut off from the world. The main characters fight or flee the plague and the main voice of the story belongs to Dr Bernard Rieux, who as a result of his position is able to record the spread and the impact of the plague. It ends with the town liberated from the disease but life for the survivors is overshadowed by the impact of the exile and the memories of what they have lost and endured.

Is it well written?
The book is working on different levels with it also being a metaphor for the German invasion of France in the second world war and as a result you have to ask does it succed in delivering that metaphor as well as a readable story. The answer on both counts is yes, because you understand and feel the impact of the exile, particularly the question - when will it end? The book succeeds because of the empathy and affection the reader develops for the principle character Rieux but also for his like-mided friends Tarrou, Rambert and Grand.

is it worth reading?
After starting with The Outsider and then tackling The Fall I wish I had gone for The Plague as a second Camus stepping stone because not only is it a more rounded story but it shows the depth of his writing. Some of his descriptions are incredibly powerful being able to sum up the feelings and fears on an individual as well as an entire town. Camus has large numbers of worldwide followers and it is because of his writing, which is displayed on numerous occasions in this book.

leads to
Three choices here really: either more Camus, some more French literature or into non-fiction territory with some reading about the plague - particularly the London plague that was chronicled by Pepys.

version read - penguin twentieth century classics

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