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.)

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