French Existentialist philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960) published The Plague (La Peste) in 1947. This novel tells the story of bubonic plague ravaging the coastal town of Oran, Algeria. All quotes are taken from Stuart Gilbert’s translation (1948, 1975) and the Vintage International edition (1991).
- “Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
- “When a war breaks out, people say: ‘It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.’ But though a war may well be ‘too stupid,’ that doesn’t prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.”
- “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, [and] silences the exchange of views? They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.”