Albert Camus, “The Plague”

Two section’s from Camus’s “The Plague.”  Of course, he was not only talking plagues–or even primarily so–but about the human condition.

” In fact, like our fellow citizens, Rieux (the doctor) was caught off his guard, and we should understand his hesitations in the light of this fact; and similarly understand how he was torn between conflicting fears and confidence.  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.”

“In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words they were humanists: they disbelieved in 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 they thought 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 our 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.”