The Plague

By: Albert Camus

In the small coastal city of Oran, Algeria, rats begin rising up from the filth, only to die as bloody heaps in the streets. Shortly after, an outbreak of the bubonic plague erupts and envelops the human population. Albert Camus' The Plague is a brilliant and haunting rendering of human perseverance and futility in the face of a relentless terror born of nature.

Auuster's Takeaway

The Plague is very similar to The Andromeda Strain, perhaps the other way around as the Plague was written earlier. Both books follow a deadly pathogen and explore different aspects of the disease. Unlike the Andromedia Strain where the focus of the story is identifying the pathogen (Dr. Castel's job in the book), the Plague takes a look at the societal impact of a plague in the Algerian city of Oran in the 1940s.

The book follows an anonymous narrator as he follows a group of significant figures in the Plague of Oran. Dr. Bernard Rieux is a doctor that first observed that rats were dying in large numbers and, more interestingly, they all surfaced to the streets performing erratic behaviour before passing away. This triggered the doctor to warn the government, who igonred his suggestions until the first case of the bubonic plague. Afterwards, he played an important role in setting up makeshift hospitals and quarantine zones to facilitate the influx of plague. Tarrou, a new comer to the town, sets up the a volunteer regiment to sanitize the streets to fight the plague. Rambert is a journalist that becomes trapped in Oran because it becomes closed off to the world as it fights the plague. He attempts to use sly methods of escaping the city, but eventually decides to stay and help with the plague. Father Paneloux is a priest that performs two sermons, he is used by Albert Camus to portray a religious perspective on the plague. Social conditions worsen as the death tolls from the plague rises, but eventually a cure is found. But actually its not the cure made by Dr. Castel that saves the day, the plague quickly subsidizes and the city recovers. Before the plague fully retreats it takes the life of Tarrou, whom had become good friends with Dr. Rieux during the plague.

The story is an interesting told by an anonymous narrator until the end of the book where he identifies himself as Rieux. This is after he tells the story about the loss of a good friend and his wife. I find that this book is much more profound than just talking about the social effects of the plague. Although its not as exciting as the Andromeda Strain, it is interesting to see how Albert Camus believes society will react to being restricted to the plague.