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:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2017

Defender of the Community

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Echt Deutsch

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Boy Without a Country

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Behind the Fig Leaf

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

You Can Run …

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Never Would I Ever

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The March on Everywhere·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Photograph (detail) © Nima Taradji/Polaris
Post
The Forty-Fifth President·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Photograph (detail) by Philip Montgomery
Article
Defender of the Community·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration (detail) by Katherine Streeter
Article
The Boy Without a Country·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
Asphalt Gardens·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In a city that is rapidly pricing out the poor, NYCHA’s housing projects are a last bastion of affordable shelter, with an average monthly rent of $509
Photograph (detail) © Samuel James

Ratio of the amount of water used to make the containers to the amount of bottled water consumed:

2:1

Police in Pforzheim, Germany, detained an owl who was drunk on schnapps.

In the United States, legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act was advanced by the House Ways and Means Committee after 18 hours of deliberation, during which time the Republican members of Congress passed around candy.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today