Quotable: Albert Camus on pestilences

“A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogey of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven’t taken their precautions. Our townsfolk were not more to blame than others, they forgot to be modest–that was all–and thought that everything still was possible for them; which presupposed that pestilences were impossible. They went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views? They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.”

–Albert Camus, The Plague

(N.B.: This novel is set in Oran, in the early 1940s. The pestilence in question here is not only the bubonic plague, as a “straight” reading would indicate, but also an allegory of the encroaching Nazism of the day.)

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