The Plague

By Albert Camus


Albert Camus' The Plague was written in 1947 just after the Second World War, an event that was to exercise a decisive influence on his work. Camus personally endured the German Occupation of France and was an important intellectual figure of the Resistance. In this way, many readers have seen a symbolic representation of the Nazi Occupation in the images of Oran: the plague as an allegory of the Nazi invasion. It is a novel written from the perspective of one who has suffered, and possibly witnessed, suffering on an even greater scale. No religion, ideology or concept of any kind can possibly attempt to justify or relieve the weight of suffering inflicted upon men. As a writer with a sensitive conscience, Camus felt a social and political duty to inform and "engage" with others about the terrible conditions that were imposed upon his generation. Yet through the very conditions it creates, the plague also evokes the monotonous routines of modern urban life and the deadening existence of man. (The pedantic nature of bureaucracy is just one example.) Camus uses the plague to symbolize whatever may potentially either curtail human existence or merely prevent the fulfilment of experiencing life as it should be lived. His writing was his creative and personal means therefore of both "engaging" with others and relinquishing the tendency to succumb to the despondency and pessimism that the Second World War had left in its wake.