No Comment, Quotation — February 9, 2008, 12:00 am

Camus’s Plague

[L]e docteur Rieux décida alors de rédiger le récit qui s’achève ici, pour ne pas être de ceux quise taisent, pour témoigner en faveur de ces pestiférés, pour laisser de moins un souvenir de l’injustice et de la violence qui leur avaient été faites, et pour dire simplement ce qu’on apprend au milieu des fléaux, qu’il y a dans les homes plus de choses à admirer que de choses à mépriser. . .

[I]l savait ce que cette foule en joie ignorait, et qu’on peut lire dans les livres, que le bacilli de la peste ne meurt ni disparaît jamais, qu’il peut rester pendant des dizaines d’années endormi dans les meubles et le linge, qu’il attend patiemment dans les chambers, les caves, les malles, les mouchoirs et les paperasses, et que, peut-être, le jour viendrait où, pour le Malheur et l’enseignement des hommes, la peste réveillerait ses rats et les enverrait mourir dans une cité heureuse.

Doctor Rieux thus resolved to compile this chronicle which you find before you in order not to number among those who keep quiet, in order to bear witness in favor of those who suffer the plague, in order that some memorial would exist of the injustice and the violence which had been inflicted upon them. He wanted quite simply to record what one learns in the midst of the pestilence, namely that there are more things to admire about human beings than to despise. . .

He knew what this happy crowd did not know, but what it could have learned from books: the plague baccilus never dies nor disappears for good, that it may rest dormant for dozens of years in furniture, in furnishings, that it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day will come when to the misfortune or enlightenment of humanity, the plague will again bestir its rats and send them forth to die in a happy city.

Albert Camus, La peste, bk v (1947) in Albert Camus Théâtre, Récits et Nouvelles (Pléiade ed. 1967), pp. 1473-74 (S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

January 2015

Come With Us If You Want to Live

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Body Politic

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Problem of Pain Management

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Game On

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Love Crimes

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Body Politic·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘He wrote all these love poems, but he was a son of a bitch,’ said a reporter from a wire service.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
Love Crimes·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If a man rapes a woman, she might be forced to marry him, because in Afghanistan sex before marriage is dishonorable.”
Photographs © Andrew Quilty/Oculi/Agence VU
Article
Game On·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union had posed a truly existential threat.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Come With Us If You Want to Live·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I was startled that all these negative ideologies could be condensed so easily into a positive worldview.”
Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:

36,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today