Camus: a short writer

Do you know where the tomatoes consumed in Spain are grown, where they cost four times as much? In some African or Latin American country, for sure. Well no, in Holland.

“There have been as many plagues as there have been wars in history, but plagues and wars take people equally by surprise” – Albert Camus, author of the tremendous novel Plague (1947, Wikipedia

Plague is a novel by the French-Algerian writer Albert Camus (1913-1960). Published on June 10, 1947, it tells the story of some doctors who discover the meaning of solidarity in their humanitarian work in the Algerian city of Oran, while it is hit by a plague epidemic. The characters in the book, in a wide range from doctors to tourists to fugitives, help to show the effects that a plague can have on a certain population.

The play is thought to be based on the cholera epidemic that the city of Oran itself suffered during 1849 after French colonization, despite being set in the 20th century. The population of Oran had been decimated by several epidemics repeatedly before publish Camus the novel.

A fundamental work of 20th century literature, it is considered a classic of existentialism, despite Camus’s rejection of this label.

The novel involves a philosophical reflection: the meaning of existence when God and universal morality is lacking. The narrator emphasizes the idea that, ultimately, man has no control over anything, the irrationality of life is inevitable; thus, the plague represents the absurd, whose theory Camus himself helped define.

This absence of supreme meaning is the “absurd”, and it is something that although disconcerting is potentially positive, since the new reasons for existence would be any that is linked to valuing human life for itself and not for causes superior to people (religious, ideological, etc.). The novel shows this sense of existence, free and atheist, manifested mainly in mutual support and individual freedom, at odds with indifference and authority. I would put this topic in a non-literary way in The rebellious man.

In this novel Camus addresses a theme that was not very recurrent in his previous works: human solidarity. Oran, an Algerian city invaded by the plague (disease, evil, death, the absurdity of evil), encloses on its grounds men who fight against it and who are determined to end everything that could hinder and denigrate life human. Examples of this are the doctor Rieux and his partner Tarrou. With The Plague Camus launches one of his fundamental maxims: “In man there are more things worthy of admiration than contempt” and he flatly denies all that, having an earthly or divine origin, is capable of producing suffering to man.

A deeper reading leads some critics to see in the novel a criticism of the restriction of freedoms: in the face of the disease, the authorities limit the movements of its inhabitants to protect them, such as dictatorships and governments that prohibit individual freedoms for the mirage of a higher good.

Death of Camus

“The writer, philosopher and journalist Albert Camus, one of the icons of absurdism and Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957, died on January 4, 1960 in an absurd way, as he himself had said without trying to make any predictions.

Camus learned of the death of the cyclist Fausto Coppi in a traffic accident and according to some journalists, he commented ‘dying in a car is an idiotic death’. What he did not know is that two days later he would die the same way.

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Camus: a short writer