On Reading Camus’s The Plague

To begin with, I decided to read The Plague in connection with a project on which I am currently working.  I was highly optimistic, for some unknown reason, but I am now realizing that reading this text is contributing to my high blood pressure.  I cannot explain it, but I have an (ir)rational fear of the bubonic plague.  Ever since I was really little, I was afraid I could catch the plague just by reading about it.  Even then, I thought to myself, “if I read books from the period…can I catch the plague…what is the incubation period of the plague?”  While, of course, the plague is not something that is held static in history, and, in fact, it continues to live on and infect, I always imagined it as something frozen in time.  I remember walking out of the room when a documentary came on the television about the plague.  If my memory is correct, scientists were unburying dead bodies in order to see if the plague had laid dormant, and, in fact, it had.  I cannot be too sure whether or not this is true, but the memory is quite vivid.  Scientists digging and white parkas.  A seemingly innocuous image is also terrifying beyond belief.

I am currently reading The Plague.  It seems like a bad idea, but that cliché of having to face one’s fears comes just as clear to my mind.  Reading this book is highly distressing to me, but there are certain things, not the horrors of disease, that I intend to extract from the novel.  Perhaps, that could be the very basis of my own mantra…using Camus’s existentialism to get through this horrifying novel.  I am on page 17.  But, I intend to make my own meaning from this book.  I am looking for what is not obvious, and I am looking for, not redemption, but a moment of meaningless meaning.  Perhaps, it will be fleeting, and even worthless to my project, but it seems foolish not to try.

I am reading The Plague because, while this feeling is not addictive, it certainly is catching.  One only has a few days before they are taken captive to the plague and its particular necrosis.  In this case, I am not looking towards death in a straightforward way.  Not at all, but just the way ideas come and go, eat and fester, cure and humble.  While my reaction may seem melodramatic, perhaps setting down on metaphorical paper the apprehensions I face is the only way I will Pester on and make a new meaning out of something with which I have been, largely, uncomfortable.


–fin, until next time

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