Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lunchtime read: Exile and the Kingdom

Camus is able, and this has to be the sign of a great writer, to use just a dozen or so pages to set up a scene that will remain with you and has the ability to display some deep universal human characteristics.

The Silent Men
Yvars has been on strike but is heading back to work after it has failed and the unions have conceded defeat and understandably there is a tension in the air as the doors to the workshop are pulled back and the staff allowed back to resume making barrels to contain oil. The boss comes in to talk to the men but one by one they refuse to talk to him because they feel the only dignity they have left is in silence. But the boss has a little girl who is ill and an ambulance is called and when the boss returns at the end of the night the men continue their silence even though they all feel for him. Once he gets home Yvars tells his wife the story and concludes that it is all the boss’s fault.

There is a real subtle examination here of the interplay between individuals and the crowd and how fear of going against a pack mentality can often make people do things against their real desires.

More tomorrow…

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