REVIEW of THE PLAGUE by ALBERT CAMUS
Released in 1947
A gripping tale of human unrelieved horror, of survival and resilience, and of the ways in which humankind confronts death, The Plague is at once a masterfully crafted novel, eloquently understated and epic in scope, and a parable of ageless moral resonance, profoundly relevant to our times. In Oran, a coastal town in North Africa, the plague begins as a series of portents, unheeded by the people. It gradually becomes a omnipresent reality, obliterating all traces of the past and driving its victims to almost unearthly extremes of suffering, madness, and compassion.
I love the characters. They're so far from caricatures (the old man who drops papers for the cats to play with and then spits on them, the man who has re-written the first and only line of his novel thousands of times), but they're so sparingly described that you fill in the gaps with either your imagination or with people you already know.
I didn't know you could wait until the last chapter to reveal the identity of your narrator. It's bold, but you realize you knew all along.
The main reason I liked this book so much is that Camus grasps and explains human nature in this book as well as the best of them (like Shakespeare or Jane Austen). When put in dire circumstances, the character of these characters is laid bare, and it made me think about my own character. Would I respond to such challenges like Tarrou and Dr. Rieux? Or would I try to escape like Rambert? And what's up with Cottard? Is it possible that some people actually thrive in dissolute situations? I'm sure they do, but I'd never considered it before.
It's really too bad Camus didn't last longer.