The Plague

Camus, Albert, trans. Stuart Gilbert

The Modern Library, 1948

p. 35

“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 . . . [So with the townspeople.] 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.’” Mr. Grand, a hopelessly taciturn, ill-paid, utterly insignificant town clerk cannot find the words to ask for a raise. Dr. Rieux thinks about him. “He realized how absurd it was, but he simply couldn’t believe that a pestilence on a grand scale could befall a town where people like Grand were to be found, obscure functionaries cultivating harmless eccentricities. To be precise, he couldn’t picture such eccentricities existing in a plague-stricken community.”