Albert Camus, “The Plague”

The following quotes are taken from Penguin Modern Classics 1967 edition of “The Plague”.

PART 2, CHAPTER 8  (page 110)

Next day Tarrou set to work and enrolled a first team of workers, soon to be followed by many others.

However, it is not the narrator’s intention to ascribe to these sanitary groups more importance than their due. Doubtless to-day many of our fellow-citizens are apt to yield to the temptation of exaggerating the services they rendered. But the narrator is inclined to think that by attributing over-importance to praiseworthy actions, one may, by implication, be paying in-direct but potent homage to the worst side of human nature. For this attitude implies that such actions shine out as rare exceptions, while callousness and apathy are the general rule. The narrator does not share that view. The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding.  On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point.  But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims itself the right to kill.  The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness or true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.

PART 5, CHAPTER 5   (Conclusion, page 251)

… Dr Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favour of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

None the less, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never-ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.

And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperilled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it roused its rats again and sent them forth to die in a happy city.

 

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