Monday, December 08, 2008

The Plague (continued)

In his excellent survey of modern French writers, From Proust to Camus, Andre Maurois observes that:

In The Plague Camus is mainly interested in the reactions of men faced with the collapse of everything they had believed to be secure: communications systems, trade, health. It is no longer a single Sisyphus but a city of Sisyphuses who themselves crushed by disaster.(p. 356)

In our continuing reading of this novel our Sunday Morning Group has found this aspect of the novel a rich topic for discussion as we near the end of its second section. The work abounds with Sisyphean metaphors while even the structure demonstrates this theme as Camus has a virtual rebeginning at the start of the second part mirroring the opening of the novel and reminding us of the greater Sisyphean task before us. The failure of communication exists at all levels and we see reminders on almost every other page; for example in chapter 9 (the opening of Section two) we see "all these people found themselves, without the least warning, hopelessly cut off, prevented from seeing one another again, or even communicating with one another."
In some sense the novel becomes one of creating a community within Oran to deal with the Sisyphean task of the ordeal of the Plague and the greater task of living one's life. The city and the people change as they try to deal with the cataclysm that has overtaken them. The community is infected and imprisoned and becomes obsessed with communication and the futility of communication with no response (more Sisyphus or merely the absurd?) Future reading and discussion will follow that change and their lives.

The Plague by Albert Camus. Trans. by Stuart Gilbert. Vintage Books, New York. 1991 (1948).
From Proust to Camus: Profiles of Modern French Writers by Andre Maurois. Trans. by Carl Morse and Renaud Bruce. Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York. 1966.

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