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An allegorical tale of aching compassion for the human condition,
This review is from: The Plague (Essential Penguin) (Paperback)
Albert Camus's allegorical tale of a community cut off from the outside world is a work of aching compassion for the human condition. The small Algerian town of Oran is overwhelmed by a catastrophic outbreak of bubonic plague which forces the authorities to isolate and quarantine its population. As the death toll rises, doctor and humanitarian Bernard Rieux, together with volunteers, does his best for the cause of human life within the limits of modern medicine.
This is a story about human beings under siege where death threatens all equally, about their reactions and their different means of dealing with isolation from friends, family and love, of maintaining daily routine in the face of constant, debilitating fear. How do people react under trauma? Why do some individuals grasp for dear life at the piece of driftwood in the ocean after their boat has capsized while others let go meekly straight away and drift into oblivion? In The Plague we see all; those who cope and those who don't, those who sacrifice and those who exploit. It is an existential tale of humanity in all its diversity and demonstrates why social justice can never be realised in a Godless world wracked by arbitrary biological injustice.
Written just after the end of Nazi occupation of France The Plague can be read as an allegory of that occupation but equally of the Holocaust or the Siege of Leningrad. Beautiful, powerful and profoundly moving, this is European literature on a different level.