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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hats off, gentlemen!
The Plague is easily one of the best ten novels ever written, far surpassing even the erstwhile classic The Stranger. Whereas we examine an uncommonly cold-hearted man in a normal world in the pages of The Stranger, in this novel it is a harsh outside world which closes in on a group of fascinating characters. It is in this much more developed context that Camus' most...
Published on 28 Nov 2002 by Daniel Jolley

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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Interesting - but written in an old fashioned style and very slow in story and character development. Not a page turner - for me in any case - but an interesting study on the psychological and practical disintegration of a community that accompanies a mass tragedy of this sort. Interesting!
Published 5 months ago by Diana Temple


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hats off, gentlemen!, 28 Nov 2002
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plague (Hardcover)
The Plague is easily one of the best ten novels ever written, far surpassing even the erstwhile classic The Stranger. Whereas we examine an uncommonly cold-hearted man in a normal world in the pages of The Stranger, in this novel it is a harsh outside world which closes in on a group of fascinating characters. It is in this much more developed context that Camus' most remarkale notions of humanity, life, and existence can be fleshed out and communicated more effectively. The lessons of good, normal lives in a world gone mad are much more instructive and meaningful than the observations in The Stranger of a man gone mad in a normal world.
A word to the wise: when large numbers of rats come out of the woodwork and commence dying nasty, bloody deaths in the streets and houses, public health is in danger. In the port city of Oran, the population ignores the signs of danger and only grudgingly admits that an epidemic, a form of the bubonic plague to be exact, has taken root in their city. The protagonist, Dr. Rieux, is a doctor who finally helps convince the authorities to take extreme measures in the interest of public safety and to eventually close the gates to town. Over the course of the novel, we get to observe the manner in which Dr. Rieux, his companions, and prominent men of the community react to the worsening plague and its social consequences. Dr. Rieux has just sent his unhealthy wife off to a sanitarium before the plague breaks out, and he must suffer her absence alongside the stresses of working 20+ hours a day trying to save people's lives while accomplishing little more than watching them die horrible deaths. Dr. Rieux's attempts to make sense of everything is a basic pulse of the story; an atheist, he cannot find happiness even in the plague's departure, determining that he did what he had to do in fighting the disease with all his might, yet remembering the deaths of so many friends and strangers and knowing that the pestilence could come back at any time. His friend Tarrou supplies much of the knowledge we glean about the reactions of society as a whole as month after month of isolation continues in the face of death's greedy fingers. His journal records small but important facts about all manners of men, yet he himself cannot be said to find ultimate peace. We first encounter M. Cottard after he has hanged himself and been saved before death. A criminal type yet not a bad man, his initial worries over inquiries into his suicide attempt fade away as the plague's grip on Oran tightens. He emerges from a self-imposed exile to actually become a communicating member of society; he alone seems to enjoy the plague because it makes everyone else like him, forced to live each day with the fear of a brooding, horrible fate. Then there is M. Grande, one of my favorite characters in all of literature. A simple civil service employee, he devotes himself to volunteer work computing plague statistics and the like while still continuing his fervent efforts at writing a novel. Grande's wife left him years earlier because he got too wrapped up in his work and lost the words to communicate his love for her; he began writing a novel in an attempt to find those words. With great devotion and commitment he works on his writing, determined to produce a perfectly crafted novel, one where each word is meaningful and necessary for the story--in short, one that will inspire the future publisher to introduce it to his publishing house cohorts with the phrase, "Hats off, gentlemen." After untold months of dedicated effort, Grande has yet to get the first sentence to sound exactly right; he engages all of his efforts into perfecting this one sentence, sure that the rest of the novel will fall into place after it is perfected.
These main characters are all fascinating character studies. Not all of them live to see the plague's end, but each of them struggles to find meaning in his own experience. One character continues living because that is what is required of human beings, to go on fighting for life in a meaningless world; one man seeks to become a saint of sorts by helping his fellow man fight the pestilence; another finds life after the plague to be unbearable, etc. The overriding message I was left with at the end is that life is worth living despite the arbitrary cruelties of an unforgiving world because there is more good in man than there is evil. I found that the book delivered in fact a rather darkly uplifting celebration of the human spirit; one's loved ones give life its meaning in a hostile world. The Plague succeeds in ways The Stranger never can because the characters in this novel are utterly human and represent diverse aspects of the lives of each of us.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best existential novel of them all, 11 Aug 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
As a proper young existentialist, I read this in high school and loved it as a statement on the meaninglessness of life. But when I returned to it nearly 30 years later, this time in the original language, I felt a far deeper sense of awe at the characters and their interactions, all of which lead to their growth, even if in sorrow. WHile their dilemma is something I will probably never experience, I identified strongly with the characters and their philosophical dilemmas, this time as a middle-aged man whose life course is set and who has his own family and love. The French is spare, but utterly clear, giving the book a mournful texture in its North African context.

The book is so rich that I do not believe one can pin down or define the principal themes: we all interpret it from the perspective of ourselves and where we stand at the time that we read it and they are ever changing. I believe that that is what defines a true classic: it is universal yet endlessly reflects back to the reader's subjectivity.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The battle against evil (totalitarianism and organized ignorance), 21 Sep 2014
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Rarely philosophical ideas and a vision about the human condition have been so brilliantly explained and illustrated in a work of fiction, as in ' The Plague' by Albert Camus. (This comment is based on the French version of the novel).

The fight of Sisyphus
For Albert Camus, the plague symbolizes anti-life, submission, everything that is opposed to human happiness. The fight against the plague is the same as the absurd task of Sisyphus. Albert Camus’s alter ego, Dr. Rieu, fights a war of attrition against the plague. But, he rejoices in it; in other words, Sisyphus is happy.

Man and Evil (ignorance)
For the hero of Albert Camus, Dr. Rieu, there is more in a human being to celebrate than to denigrate. But, goodwill can do as much damage as evil, if it is not enlightened. And, the most despairing evil is ignorance, which thinks that it knows everything and preaches that killing can be respectable.
The plague stands for totalitarianism, tyrannical political regimes, but, also for organized ignorance, like religion. Dr. Rieu sums up the core of the debate in one sentence: if a priest consults a doctor, there is a contradiction. For Albert Camus, religion equals fatalism, or in the words of the priest: perhaps we should love what we cannot understand. But, the doctor's answer is crystal clear: I fundamentally refuse to accept a world where children are tortured and killed.

Relevance
This masterful novel is still mightily relevant today, where ignorance (the plague) is institutionalized. It is spread all over the world through big media corporations monopolized by the money powers, so despised by Albert Camus. This ignorance is conveyed by the long arms of the powerful, covertly by the secret services and openly by corrupt journalists (the presstitutes). Where are the Albert Camus of today?
For Albert Camus, every man or woman has to be a rebel and should fight against those who are spreading the plague. Only a humanist mindset can create the core condition for human happiness: Kant’s Perpetual Peace.

Every man and woman of good will should read one of the greatest novels of all time, an unforgettable masterpiece of a genuine Nobel laureate.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed Perspectives from Threat of Imminent Death, 3 Aug 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The Plague is about love, exile, and suffering as illuminated by living around death.
What is the meaning of life? For many, that question is an abstraction except in the context of being aware of losing some of the joys of life, or life itself. In The Plague, Camus creates a timeless tale of humans caught in the jaws of implacable death, in this case a huge outbreak of bubonic plague in Oran, Algeria on the north African coast. With the possibility of dying so close, each character comes to see his or her life differently. In a sense, we each get a glimpse of what we, too, may think about life in the last hours and days before our own deaths. The Plague will leave you with a sense of death as real rather than as an abstraction. Then by reflecting in the mirror of that death, you can see life more clearly.
For example, what role would you take if bubonic plague were to be unleashed in your community? Would you flee? Would you help relieve the suffering? Would you become a profiteer? Would you help maintain order? Would you withdraw or seek out others? These are all important questions for helping you understand yourself that this powerful novel will raise for you.
The book is described as objectively as possible by a narrator, who is one of the key figures in the drama. That literary device allows each of us to insert ourselves into the situation.
Let me explain the main themes. Love is expressed in many ways. There is the love of men and women for each other. Dr. Rieux's wife is ill, and has just left for treatment at a sanitarium. Rambert, a journalist on temporary assignment, is separated from his live-in girl friend in Paris. Dr. Rieux's mother comes to stay with him during his mother's absence, so there is also love of parent and child. The magistrate also loses his son to the plague after a desperate battle. Separations occur because of the quarantine on Oran, which causes love to be tested. What is love without the other person being present? The characters find that their memories soon become abstractions. But they reach out to establish new love with each other. Tarrou, who is also caught in Oran, decides or organize a volunteer corps to help with the sick and dead. Rambert decides to stay in Oran to help after having arranged to escape the quarantine. The survivors find succor in increasing closeness with each other. Rieux and Tarrou become close, almost like brothers. Even Rieux's patients become people with whom he develops an emotional bond, even though the waves of death become an abstraction as he can do little to avert them. The priest figure also helps to explore the notion of love for God and God's love for us. The exile theme is reinforced by the quarantine. People cannot leave Oran. The disease itself causes that exile to become worse. If someone in your household becomes ill, each well person has to be quarantined. So you may be living in a tent in the soccer stadium wondering what is happening to the rest of your family. Cottard is a criminal who is on the run from the authorities. He is in despair as the plague begins, and tries to kill himself. The distractions of the plague keep the authorities from troubling him, so the period of the plague is an exile from his criminal past.
Suffering is easy to explain. Bubonic plague came in two forms in the book. Both brought painful and rapid death, with few reprieves. There is high fever, painful swelling or difficulty in breathing, and enormous pain. Those who tend the suffering also suffer, from the enormous workloads, the sense of futility, and the fear that they, too, will be next.
Camus does a nice job of pointing out that these themes also recur in everyday life. We just don't see them very clearly. The people in Oran live in an ugly city that deliberately built itself away from the beauty of the ocean on a sun-scorched plateau plagued by winds. They take little time to enjoy each other or the ocean, because they are caught up with making money. Commerce is their passion. So they cut themselves off from love, in an exile of spirit, which causes them to shrivel and suffer emotionally even before the plague comes. Tarrou also describes is own sense of the plague in everyday life when he discovers that his father is a prosecuting attorney who helps bring criminals to the justice of a firing squad. Even that faint connection of not trying to stop the legal killing causes Tarrou to feel like he carries the plague within him.
The book is masterful in its use of metaphor. In the beginning, dying rats and small animals presage the plague attacking humans. At the end, their return presages the return of normal life to Oran. The scenes alternate between illuminating the main themes in the context of the physical plague and the emotional plague. Religion is used as a bridge between the two, raising the fundamental question about what God's purpose is in unleashing the plague. The priest is fully tested in his love of God through this development, which is one of the most moving parts of the book.
I have read the book both in French and in English, and found this translation to be a perfectly appropriate one. There are few nuances that you will miss by reading this in English. Obviously, if you read French well, you should read the book in its original form.
This book is an excellent example of why Albert Camus was named a Nobel Laureate in Literature.
After you read this great novel, I encourage you to consider the subject of complacency. That's the author's ultimate target. Where are you complacent in ways that cost you love, closeness with others, and happiness? What else is complacency costing you? How can you help others learn to overcome complacency in loving, happy ways without the spectre of death to help you?
Enjoy a more wonderful life by refocusing on what is most important!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Camus' great masterpiece, 22 Feb 2014
By 
Mr. S. Harris (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Brilliant though the short novel The Outsider is (and for that matter The Fall too), in my view this is Albert Camus' masterpiece in which he really expands and expounds at greater length his view of the human condition, how to live with and overcome the Absurd and find meaning in purely human terms. This is a beautifully written (though sometimes a little horrifying given the nature of the threat) novel in which the narrative depth and breadth of vision approach that of Joseph Conrad at his best, which for me is a high a recommendation as you can get. The characters are believable and you grow to really care about them as together they fight the plague. It's also quite a page turner at times. In short, this is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Do you carry the plague?, 4 Dec 2014
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A. Hall (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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Written soon after the end of World War 2, this remains an important reminder of the ease with which ordinary 'good' people leading unremarkable lives can ignore or even unknowingly condone and encourage acts that lead to hardship, suffering or even death for others. To be a plague carrier, or to be vigilant, is the constant and difficult moral balancing act for all people in every social situation, as Camus makes clear.

A very good edition, as we would expect from Penguin, with a useful contextual account of Camus and the novel at the back.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking novel about humanity, 13 Mar 2010
By 
David Law (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
People often associate The Plague with the occupation of France by Germany in world war two, but to me the book has a wider message about people. The boundaries between them, the way people deal with those boundaries, and the distance between them.

I like how Camus made the cause of the quarantine faceless, it is not the Germans but a natural phenomenon in this reality. This makes the isolation of the people of Oran feel like an allegory for human nature. Additionally, the way people treat the infected despite being in a similar circumstance and splintering further into factions is terrible but honest.

Underpinning the drudgery and bleakness is hope. Dr Rieux is not a hero, but he and his team (including someone who wanted to escape, but decided to stay and help) shows the good side of humanity, but ultimately the book is ambiguous because of the (eventually revealed) identity of the narrator.

Although at times it can be too slow or too abstract, I think in The Plague Camus captures an aspect of humanity and through words alone, recreated the slow moving uncertain nature of isolation and being powerless, yet there is enough of an undercurrent where enough of the characters take responsibility, that it stops the story from being completely without hope. I don't always understand the structuring, or pace of the story, but I enjoyed it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't go round and round in an existential circle like Nausea, it reads well, 15 July 2014
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DianeFH (England, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This is an incredible existentialist novel. It doesn't go round and round in an existential circle like Nausea, it reads well. Camus is a very accessible writer.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 7 July 2014
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Diana Temple (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Interesting - but written in an old fashioned style and very slow in story and character development. Not a page turner - for me in any case - but an interesting study on the psychological and practical disintegration of a community that accompanies a mass tragedy of this sort. Interesting!
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Plague by Albert Camus, 16 Jan 2014
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Camus ' prose and his insight into the human condition are very impressive. His eclectic character portrayal allows for an examination of a cross-section of humanity.
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The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics) by Albert Camus (Paperback - 5 Dec 2002)
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