Monday, September 22, 2008

Notes on Camus I

The Plague
by Albert Camus

Rereading The Plague (La Peste) with our Sunday morning discussion group portends to be a challenging experience. My acquaintance with the novel goes back some years to a first reading on my own, a class - introduction to existentialism - at The university of Chicago Basic Program, and a read and group discussion with our monthly study group.
Now as I dip into this novel yet again I find more layers of meaning with Camus entering the aerie realm of twentieth century writers that, for me, is inhabited by only the likes of Faulkner and Grass, Musil and Mann. On beginning again I find that the trusted Random House Vintage paperback that I have read and reread is missing a key bit of text, the epigraph appended to the beginning of the novel by Camus. Its absence is inexplicable, especially since the same publisher has included it in the more recent collection of Camus' fiction for Everyman's Library. The epigraph follows:

"It is as reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not!" - (Daniel Defoe, Preface to Volume three of Robinson Crusoe)

The importance of this selection suggests Camus' story will be about more than the town of Oran in 194_ and points to motifs of imprisonment and existence. This is certainly worth considering as one enters Camus' fictional world as are most epigraphs. I look forward to considering these and other themes that will emerge as my reading continues. The Plague will again prove that it is worth the time spent rereading.

The Plague by Albert Camus (Stuart Gilbert, trans.). Random House Vintage Edition, New York. 1991 (1948)
The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected Essays by Albert Camus. Alfred A. Knopf Everyman's Library, New York. 2004.

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