The Plague

A new translation by Laura Marris

Translated by Laura Marris
Look inside
The first new translation of The Plague to be published in the United States in more than seventy years, bringing the Nobel Prize winner’s iconic novel (“A redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.” —The Washington Post) to a new generation of readers.

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation, and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr. Rieux, resist the terror.

An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, The Plague is in part an allegory of France's suffering under the Nazi occupation, as well as a timeless story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence. In this fresh yet careful translation, award-winning translator Laura Marris breathes new life into Albert Camus's ever-resonant tale. Restoring the restrained lyricism of the original French text, and liberating it from the archaisms and assumptions of the previous English translation, Marris grants English readers the closest access we have ever had to the meaning and searing beauty of The Plague.

This updated edition promises to add relevance and urgency to a classic novel of twentieth-century literature.

“We can finally read the work as Camus meant it to be read. Laura Marris’s new translation of The Plague is, quite simply, the translation we need to have.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“It takes no time to see that Ms. Marris’s version is handily superior.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“[An] extraordinary translation. . . . Brings the book into the twenty-first century with a vengeance.” —Andrew Martino, Reading in Translation
 
“The novel could be issuing a warning. . . Under what conditions can the truth of social deprivation be seen?” —Jacqueline Rose, London Review of Books (“Pointing the Finger: Jacqueline Rose on The Plague”)

“Camus is a thinker of our age. . . . [The Plague] is a testament to hope, resistance, and humanity.” —Mugambi Jouet, Boston Review (“Reading Camus in Time of Plague and Polarization”)

“[Camus] believed that the actual historical incidents we call plagues are merely concentrations of a universal precondition, dramatic instances of a perpetual rule: that all human beings are vulnerable to being randomly exterminated at any time, by a virus, an accident or the actions of our fellow man. . . . He speaks to us in our own times not because he was a magical seer who could intimate what the best epidemiologists could not, but because he correctly sized up human nature.” —Alain de Botton, The New York Times (“Camus on the Coronavirus”)

“Its relevance lashes you across the face. . . . At first, the epidemic, like all catastrophes, secretly confirms what everyone knew already; that is, it extends the narcissism of the times into the new era, often via the forbidden hope — that it will smite one’s enemies while sparing oneself. . . . Eventually, the town lapses into a kind of collective despondency with one predictable exception: the enduring complacency of ‘a privileged few, those with money to burn.’” —Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times (“Albert Camus’ The Plague and our own Great Reset”)

“The microbe has no meaning; we seek to create one in the chaos it brings. . . . The plague, as Camus insisted, exposes existing fractures in societies, in class structure and individual character; under stress, we see who we really are.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker (“The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals New York at Its Best and Worst”)

“Through his characters, Camus examines how people respond as individuals—and as part of a collective—to suffering and death. Whether it is a solitary experience or a show of social solidarity, nobody is indifferent.” —Kim Willsher, The Guardian (“Albert Camus novel The Plague leads surge of pestilence fiction”)

“[In The Plague], Camus’s canonical treatment of a fictional bubonic plague outbreak in the Algerian city of Oran, the Nobel laureate trained a piercing eye on life under quarantine, with all its strangeness and misery. But the novel also takes seriously the lessons these trying moments can teach – treats them, even, as a kind of redemption.” —Eric Andrew-Gee, The Globe and Mail (“The hope at the heart of Albert Camus’s plague novel, La peste”)

“Camus was preoccupied with the absurd. . . . In The Plague he found a lens for projecting life at once suspended and more vivid . . . It is a redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.” —Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post (“In Camus’ The Plague, lessons about fear, quarantine and the human spirit”)

“[A] gorgeous and profound meditation on life in the shadow of death. . . . I can’t think of a better book to recommend to anyone just now. . . . A cautionary tale on how to mismanage a crisis, an encyclopedia of human psychology, and of course a terrifying worst-case scenario for our current predicament. . . . More important than the answers it provides are the questions it forces us to ask. What matters? Why do we live? How durable are our values? What do we owe one another? What is heroism? What is decency?” —Daniel Akst, Strategy + Business (“Business Lessons from Albert Camus”)

“A humanist allegory for the trapped desolation of Nazi-occupied Europe, and the alternate cowardice and bravery in the face of a rampant death machine.” —Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair (“An Epidemic Novel for Every Kind of Reader”)

“[Camus] helps us understand our own responses, as a community and as individuals, in the face of extraordinary challenges.” —David Hage, The Star Tribune (“Albert Camus helps us understand our responses during this crisis”)

“The most telling passages in The Plague today are Camus’ beautifully crafted meditative observations of the social and psychological effects of the epidemic on the townspeople. . . . Epidemics make exiles of people in their own countries, our narrator stresses. Separation, isolation, loneliness, boredom and repetition become the shared fate of all.” —Matthew Sharpe, The Conversation (“Guide to the Classics: Albert Camus’ The Plague”)

“Surprisingly uplifting.” —Courtney Vinopal, PBS News Hour (“8 books to read in the time of the coronavirus”)
Born in Algeria in 1913, ALBERT CAMUS published The Stranger--now one of the most widely read novels of this century--in 1942. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. On January 4, 1960, he was killed in a car accident. LAURA MARRIS is a writer and translator. Her book-length translations include Louis Guilloux's novel Blood Dark, which was short-listed for the 2018 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. Her translation of Jean-Yves Frétigné's biography of Gramsci is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in 2021. She teaches creative writing at the University at Buffalo. View titles by Albert Camus
PART ONE
 
The curious events that make up this chronicle occurred in 194_, in Oran. By all accounts, they had no place there, being a bit out of the ordinary. At first glance, Oran is, in fact, an ordinary town and nothing more than a French prefecture on the Algerian coast.

The city itself is undeniably ugly. Through the outward calm, it can take some time to notice what sets this commercial city apart from so many others along every latitude. How to picture, for example, a city without pigeons, without trees and gardens, where you encounter neither the beating of wings nor the rustling of leaves, in short, a neutral space? The changing seasons are only visible in the sky. Spring announces itself by the quality of the air or by the baskets of flowers the peddlers bring from the surrounding areas; this spring is hawked at market. In summer, the sun scorches the toodry houses and covers the walls with gray ash; then you can only survive in the shade of closed shutters. In fall, it’s the opposite, a deluge of mud. The fine days come only in winter.

One useful way to get to know a city is to find out how people work there, how they love there, and how they die there. In our little city, perhaps because of the climate, all these things are done together, with the same frenetic and absent attitude. In other words, people here get bored and concentrate on developing their habits. Our fellow citizens work hard, but always to make themselves richer. Above all, they are interested in trade and their first concern, in some form or other, is to do business. Naturally, they also have a taste for simple pleasures: they love women, the movies, and swimming in the sea. But very sensibly, they save these pleasures for Saturday night and Sunday, trying, on other days, to make a lot of money. In the evening, when they leave their offices, they meet up in the cafés at the same hour, they stroll on the same boulevards, or they sit out on the balconies. The desires of the youngest are violent and short, while the vices of the eldest don’t surpass bocce ball leagues, charity banquets, and clubs where people risk high stakes on their luck at cards.

You might say this isn’t specific to our city and that in general all of our contemporaries are like that. Of course, nothing is more natural these days than to see people work morning till night before choosing to waste, at cards, in cafés, or in small talk, what time they have left to live. But there are some cities and countries where, from time to time, people get a hint of something more. Usually, it doesn’t change their lives. There is only the hint, but at least it’s a start. Oran, on the other hand, is apparently a city without hints, which is to say, a completely modern city. As a result, there’s no need to specify the way we love around here. Men and women either devour each other quickly in the socalled act of love, or they engage in a long, two-person habit. Between these extremes, there is often no middle ground. That’s also not very original. In Oran as in many places, without time and reflection, people have no choice but to love each other without knowing it.

What’s most original about our city is how difficult it can be to die there. Difficulty, though, isn’t exactly right, and it would be better to talk about discomfort. It’s never pleasant to be sick, but there are cities and countries that support you in your sickness, where, in some fashion, you can let yourself go. A sick person needs softness, he likes to lean on something, that’s only natural. But in Oran, the excesses of the climate, the rate of doing business, the facile ornament, the quickness of dusk and the characteristic pleasures—these all demand good health. A patient finds himself quite alone. Think of the person who is dying, caught in the trap of a hundred walls sizzling in the heat, while at the same minute, a whole population is on the telephone or in cafés, talking about bank drafts, bills of lading, or discounts. You understand what might be uncomfortable about death, even modern death, when it arises in such a dry place.

These few indications are perhaps enough to give some idea of our city. Even so, it’s better not to exaggerate. What should really be stressed is the banal side of the city and of life. But as soon as there are habits, the days become easy. As long as our city favors its habits, you might say everything is for the best. Of course, from this angle, life isn’t very interesting. At least we don’t have any disorder here at home. And our frank, kind, active population has always provoked a modest admiration from travelers. This city without charm, without greenery, without a soul, seems restful in the end, at last it puts you to sleep. It’s only fair to add that the city is grafted onto an exceptional landscape, in the middle of a naked plateau, surrounded by luminous hills, on a perfectly drawn harbor. It’s just regrettable that the city was built with its back turned to this bay, and as a result, it is impossible to glimpse the sea, and you always have to go looking for it.

At this point, it’s easy to admit that our fellow citizens could never have dreamed of the incidents that took place in the spring of that year, incidents that were, as we would come to understand, the first signs of a series of grim events whose chronicle we have set out to write. These facts will seem quite natural to some, while others may find them implausible. But after all, a chronicler can’t be bothered by these contradictions. His task is simply to say, “This happened,” once he knows that this did, in fact, happen, that it mattered to the lives of a whole population, and that there are, as a result, thousands of witnesses who will assess, in their hearts, the truth of what he says.

As for the narrator, whom you’ll meet in due course, he would never have tried to put himself forward for this kind of undertaking if chance had not given him the opportunity to collect a certain number of accounts and if the force of things hadn’t gotten him mixed up in all he presumes to relate. That’s what authorized him to take on the historian’s task. Of course, even if he’s an amateur, a historian always has sources. The narrator of this story therefore has his own: first of all what he witnessed, then what others witnessed, since, through his role, he ended up collecting the secrets of everyone involved in this chronicle, and last, the texts which finally fell into his hands. He plans to draw on them when the time seems right and to use them as he likes. He also plans to . . . But perhaps it’s time to drop the commentary and precautions of language and get down to the narrative itself. Explaining the first days requires a few details.
  • WINNER | 1957
    Nobel Prize
“It takes no time to see that Ms. Marris’s version is handily superior.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“[An] extraordinary translation. . . . Brings the book into the twenty-first century with a vengeance.”
—Andrew Martino, Reading in Translation
 
“The novel could be issuing a warning. . . Under what conditions can the truth of social deprivation be seen?”
—Jacqueline Rose, London Review of Books ("Pointing the Finger: Jacqueline Rose on The Plague")

“Camus is a thinker of our age. . . [The Plague] is a testament to hope, resistance, and humanity.”
—Mugambi Jouet, Boston Review ("Reading Camus in Time of Plague and Polarization")

“[Camus] believed that the actual historical incidents we call plagues are merely concentrations of a universal precondition, dramatic instances of a perpetual rule: that all human beings are vulnerable to being randomly exterminated at any time, by a virus, an accident or the actions of our fellow man . . . He speaks to us in our own times not because he was a magical seer who could intimate what the best epidemiologists could not, but because he correctly sized up human nature.” 
—Alain de Botton, The New York Times (“Camus on the Coronavirus”)

“Its relevance lashes you across the face . . . At first, the epidemic, like all catastrophes, secretly confirms what everyone knew already; that is, it extends the narcissism of the times into the new era, often via the forbidden hope — that it will smite one’s enemies while sparing oneself . . . Eventually, the town lapses into a kind of collective despondency with one predictable exception: the enduring complacency of ‘a privileged few, those with money to burn.’”
—Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times (“Albert Camus’ The Plague and our own Great Reset”)

“The microbe has no meaning; we seek to create one in the chaos it brings . . . The plague, as Camus insisted, exposes existing fractures in societies, in class structure and individual character; under stress, we see who we really are.” 
—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker (“The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals New York at Its Best and Worst”)

“Through his characters, Camus examines how people respond as individuals – and as part of a collective – to suffering and death. Whether it is a solitary experience or a show of social solidarity, nobody is indifferent.” 
—Kim Willsher, The Guardian (“Albert Camus novel The Plague leads surge of pestilence fiction”)

“[In The Plague], Camus’s canonical treatment of a fictional bubonic plague outbreak in the Algerian city of Oran, the Nobel laureate trained a piercing eye on life under quarantine, with all its strangeness and misery. But the novel also takes seriously the lessons these trying moments can teach – treats them, even, as a kind of redemption.” 
—Eric Andrew-Gee, The Globe and Mail (“The hope at the heart of Albert Camus’s plague novel, La peste”)

“Camus was preoccupied with the absurd . . . In The Plague he found a lens for projecting life at once suspended and more vivid . . . It is a redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.”
—Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post (“In Camus’ The Plague, lessons about fear, quarantine and the human spirit”)

“[A] gorgeous and profound meditation on life in the shadow of death . . . I can’t think of a better book to recommend to anyone just now . . . A cautionary tale on how to mismanage a crisis, an encyclopedia of human psychology, and of course a terrifying worst-case scenario for our current predicament . . . More important than the answers it provides are the questions it forces us to ask. What matters? Why do we live? How durable are our values? What do we owe one another? What is heroism? What is decency?”
—Daniel Akst, Strategy + Business (“Business Lessons from Albert Camus”)

“A humanist allegory for the trapped desolation of Nazi-occupied Europe, and the alternate cowardice and bravery in the face of a rampant death machine.” 
—Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair (“An Epidemic Novel for Every Kind of Reader”)

“[Camus] helps us understand our own responses, as a community and as individuals, in the face of extraordinary challenges.” 
—David Hage, The Star Tribune (“Albert Camus helps us understand our responses during this crisis”)

“The most telling passages in The Plague today are Camus’ beautifully crafted meditative observations of the social and psychological effects of the epidemic on the townspeople . . . Epidemics make exiles of people in their own countries, our narrator stresses. Separation, isolation, loneliness, boredom and repetition become the shared fate of all.”
—Matthew Sharpe, The Conversation (“Guide to the Classics: Albert Camus’ The Plague”)

“Surprisingly uplifting.”
—Courtney Vinopal, PBS News Hour (“8 books to read in the time of the coronavirus”)

About

The first new translation of The Plague to be published in the United States in more than seventy years, bringing the Nobel Prize winner’s iconic novel (“A redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.” —The Washington Post) to a new generation of readers.

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation, and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr. Rieux, resist the terror.

An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, The Plague is in part an allegory of France's suffering under the Nazi occupation, as well as a timeless story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence. In this fresh yet careful translation, award-winning translator Laura Marris breathes new life into Albert Camus's ever-resonant tale. Restoring the restrained lyricism of the original French text, and liberating it from the archaisms and assumptions of the previous English translation, Marris grants English readers the closest access we have ever had to the meaning and searing beauty of The Plague.

This updated edition promises to add relevance and urgency to a classic novel of twentieth-century literature.

“We can finally read the work as Camus meant it to be read. Laura Marris’s new translation of The Plague is, quite simply, the translation we need to have.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“It takes no time to see that Ms. Marris’s version is handily superior.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“[An] extraordinary translation. . . . Brings the book into the twenty-first century with a vengeance.” —Andrew Martino, Reading in Translation
 
“The novel could be issuing a warning. . . Under what conditions can the truth of social deprivation be seen?” —Jacqueline Rose, London Review of Books (“Pointing the Finger: Jacqueline Rose on The Plague”)

“Camus is a thinker of our age. . . . [The Plague] is a testament to hope, resistance, and humanity.” —Mugambi Jouet, Boston Review (“Reading Camus in Time of Plague and Polarization”)

“[Camus] believed that the actual historical incidents we call plagues are merely concentrations of a universal precondition, dramatic instances of a perpetual rule: that all human beings are vulnerable to being randomly exterminated at any time, by a virus, an accident or the actions of our fellow man. . . . He speaks to us in our own times not because he was a magical seer who could intimate what the best epidemiologists could not, but because he correctly sized up human nature.” —Alain de Botton, The New York Times (“Camus on the Coronavirus”)

“Its relevance lashes you across the face. . . . At first, the epidemic, like all catastrophes, secretly confirms what everyone knew already; that is, it extends the narcissism of the times into the new era, often via the forbidden hope — that it will smite one’s enemies while sparing oneself. . . . Eventually, the town lapses into a kind of collective despondency with one predictable exception: the enduring complacency of ‘a privileged few, those with money to burn.’” —Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times (“Albert Camus’ The Plague and our own Great Reset”)

“The microbe has no meaning; we seek to create one in the chaos it brings. . . . The plague, as Camus insisted, exposes existing fractures in societies, in class structure and individual character; under stress, we see who we really are.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker (“The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals New York at Its Best and Worst”)

“Through his characters, Camus examines how people respond as individuals—and as part of a collective—to suffering and death. Whether it is a solitary experience or a show of social solidarity, nobody is indifferent.” —Kim Willsher, The Guardian (“Albert Camus novel The Plague leads surge of pestilence fiction”)

“[In The Plague], Camus’s canonical treatment of a fictional bubonic plague outbreak in the Algerian city of Oran, the Nobel laureate trained a piercing eye on life under quarantine, with all its strangeness and misery. But the novel also takes seriously the lessons these trying moments can teach – treats them, even, as a kind of redemption.” —Eric Andrew-Gee, The Globe and Mail (“The hope at the heart of Albert Camus’s plague novel, La peste”)

“Camus was preoccupied with the absurd. . . . In The Plague he found a lens for projecting life at once suspended and more vivid . . . It is a redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.” —Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post (“In Camus’ The Plague, lessons about fear, quarantine and the human spirit”)

“[A] gorgeous and profound meditation on life in the shadow of death. . . . I can’t think of a better book to recommend to anyone just now. . . . A cautionary tale on how to mismanage a crisis, an encyclopedia of human psychology, and of course a terrifying worst-case scenario for our current predicament. . . . More important than the answers it provides are the questions it forces us to ask. What matters? Why do we live? How durable are our values? What do we owe one another? What is heroism? What is decency?” —Daniel Akst, Strategy + Business (“Business Lessons from Albert Camus”)

“A humanist allegory for the trapped desolation of Nazi-occupied Europe, and the alternate cowardice and bravery in the face of a rampant death machine.” —Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair (“An Epidemic Novel for Every Kind of Reader”)

“[Camus] helps us understand our own responses, as a community and as individuals, in the face of extraordinary challenges.” —David Hage, The Star Tribune (“Albert Camus helps us understand our responses during this crisis”)

“The most telling passages in The Plague today are Camus’ beautifully crafted meditative observations of the social and psychological effects of the epidemic on the townspeople. . . . Epidemics make exiles of people in their own countries, our narrator stresses. Separation, isolation, loneliness, boredom and repetition become the shared fate of all.” —Matthew Sharpe, The Conversation (“Guide to the Classics: Albert Camus’ The Plague”)

“Surprisingly uplifting.” —Courtney Vinopal, PBS News Hour (“8 books to read in the time of the coronavirus”)

Author

Born in Algeria in 1913, ALBERT CAMUS published The Stranger--now one of the most widely read novels of this century--in 1942. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. On January 4, 1960, he was killed in a car accident. LAURA MARRIS is a writer and translator. Her book-length translations include Louis Guilloux's novel Blood Dark, which was short-listed for the 2018 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. Her translation of Jean-Yves Frétigné's biography of Gramsci is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in 2021. She teaches creative writing at the University at Buffalo. View titles by Albert Camus

Excerpt

PART ONE
 
The curious events that make up this chronicle occurred in 194_, in Oran. By all accounts, they had no place there, being a bit out of the ordinary. At first glance, Oran is, in fact, an ordinary town and nothing more than a French prefecture on the Algerian coast.

The city itself is undeniably ugly. Through the outward calm, it can take some time to notice what sets this commercial city apart from so many others along every latitude. How to picture, for example, a city without pigeons, without trees and gardens, where you encounter neither the beating of wings nor the rustling of leaves, in short, a neutral space? The changing seasons are only visible in the sky. Spring announces itself by the quality of the air or by the baskets of flowers the peddlers bring from the surrounding areas; this spring is hawked at market. In summer, the sun scorches the toodry houses and covers the walls with gray ash; then you can only survive in the shade of closed shutters. In fall, it’s the opposite, a deluge of mud. The fine days come only in winter.

One useful way to get to know a city is to find out how people work there, how they love there, and how they die there. In our little city, perhaps because of the climate, all these things are done together, with the same frenetic and absent attitude. In other words, people here get bored and concentrate on developing their habits. Our fellow citizens work hard, but always to make themselves richer. Above all, they are interested in trade and their first concern, in some form or other, is to do business. Naturally, they also have a taste for simple pleasures: they love women, the movies, and swimming in the sea. But very sensibly, they save these pleasures for Saturday night and Sunday, trying, on other days, to make a lot of money. In the evening, when they leave their offices, they meet up in the cafés at the same hour, they stroll on the same boulevards, or they sit out on the balconies. The desires of the youngest are violent and short, while the vices of the eldest don’t surpass bocce ball leagues, charity banquets, and clubs where people risk high stakes on their luck at cards.

You might say this isn’t specific to our city and that in general all of our contemporaries are like that. Of course, nothing is more natural these days than to see people work morning till night before choosing to waste, at cards, in cafés, or in small talk, what time they have left to live. But there are some cities and countries where, from time to time, people get a hint of something more. Usually, it doesn’t change their lives. There is only the hint, but at least it’s a start. Oran, on the other hand, is apparently a city without hints, which is to say, a completely modern city. As a result, there’s no need to specify the way we love around here. Men and women either devour each other quickly in the socalled act of love, or they engage in a long, two-person habit. Between these extremes, there is often no middle ground. That’s also not very original. In Oran as in many places, without time and reflection, people have no choice but to love each other without knowing it.

What’s most original about our city is how difficult it can be to die there. Difficulty, though, isn’t exactly right, and it would be better to talk about discomfort. It’s never pleasant to be sick, but there are cities and countries that support you in your sickness, where, in some fashion, you can let yourself go. A sick person needs softness, he likes to lean on something, that’s only natural. But in Oran, the excesses of the climate, the rate of doing business, the facile ornament, the quickness of dusk and the characteristic pleasures—these all demand good health. A patient finds himself quite alone. Think of the person who is dying, caught in the trap of a hundred walls sizzling in the heat, while at the same minute, a whole population is on the telephone or in cafés, talking about bank drafts, bills of lading, or discounts. You understand what might be uncomfortable about death, even modern death, when it arises in such a dry place.

These few indications are perhaps enough to give some idea of our city. Even so, it’s better not to exaggerate. What should really be stressed is the banal side of the city and of life. But as soon as there are habits, the days become easy. As long as our city favors its habits, you might say everything is for the best. Of course, from this angle, life isn’t very interesting. At least we don’t have any disorder here at home. And our frank, kind, active population has always provoked a modest admiration from travelers. This city without charm, without greenery, without a soul, seems restful in the end, at last it puts you to sleep. It’s only fair to add that the city is grafted onto an exceptional landscape, in the middle of a naked plateau, surrounded by luminous hills, on a perfectly drawn harbor. It’s just regrettable that the city was built with its back turned to this bay, and as a result, it is impossible to glimpse the sea, and you always have to go looking for it.

At this point, it’s easy to admit that our fellow citizens could never have dreamed of the incidents that took place in the spring of that year, incidents that were, as we would come to understand, the first signs of a series of grim events whose chronicle we have set out to write. These facts will seem quite natural to some, while others may find them implausible. But after all, a chronicler can’t be bothered by these contradictions. His task is simply to say, “This happened,” once he knows that this did, in fact, happen, that it mattered to the lives of a whole population, and that there are, as a result, thousands of witnesses who will assess, in their hearts, the truth of what he says.

As for the narrator, whom you’ll meet in due course, he would never have tried to put himself forward for this kind of undertaking if chance had not given him the opportunity to collect a certain number of accounts and if the force of things hadn’t gotten him mixed up in all he presumes to relate. That’s what authorized him to take on the historian’s task. Of course, even if he’s an amateur, a historian always has sources. The narrator of this story therefore has his own: first of all what he witnessed, then what others witnessed, since, through his role, he ended up collecting the secrets of everyone involved in this chronicle, and last, the texts which finally fell into his hands. He plans to draw on them when the time seems right and to use them as he likes. He also plans to . . . But perhaps it’s time to drop the commentary and precautions of language and get down to the narrative itself. Explaining the first days requires a few details.

Awards

  • WINNER | 1957
    Nobel Prize

Praise

“It takes no time to see that Ms. Marris’s version is handily superior.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“[An] extraordinary translation. . . . Brings the book into the twenty-first century with a vengeance.”
—Andrew Martino, Reading in Translation
 
“The novel could be issuing a warning. . . Under what conditions can the truth of social deprivation be seen?”
—Jacqueline Rose, London Review of Books ("Pointing the Finger: Jacqueline Rose on The Plague")

“Camus is a thinker of our age. . . [The Plague] is a testament to hope, resistance, and humanity.”
—Mugambi Jouet, Boston Review ("Reading Camus in Time of Plague and Polarization")

“[Camus] believed that the actual historical incidents we call plagues are merely concentrations of a universal precondition, dramatic instances of a perpetual rule: that all human beings are vulnerable to being randomly exterminated at any time, by a virus, an accident or the actions of our fellow man . . . He speaks to us in our own times not because he was a magical seer who could intimate what the best epidemiologists could not, but because he correctly sized up human nature.” 
—Alain de Botton, The New York Times (“Camus on the Coronavirus”)

“Its relevance lashes you across the face . . . At first, the epidemic, like all catastrophes, secretly confirms what everyone knew already; that is, it extends the narcissism of the times into the new era, often via the forbidden hope — that it will smite one’s enemies while sparing oneself . . . Eventually, the town lapses into a kind of collective despondency with one predictable exception: the enduring complacency of ‘a privileged few, those with money to burn.’”
—Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times (“Albert Camus’ The Plague and our own Great Reset”)

“The microbe has no meaning; we seek to create one in the chaos it brings . . . The plague, as Camus insisted, exposes existing fractures in societies, in class structure and individual character; under stress, we see who we really are.” 
—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker (“The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals New York at Its Best and Worst”)

“Through his characters, Camus examines how people respond as individuals – and as part of a collective – to suffering and death. Whether it is a solitary experience or a show of social solidarity, nobody is indifferent.” 
—Kim Willsher, The Guardian (“Albert Camus novel The Plague leads surge of pestilence fiction”)

“[In The Plague], Camus’s canonical treatment of a fictional bubonic plague outbreak in the Algerian city of Oran, the Nobel laureate trained a piercing eye on life under quarantine, with all its strangeness and misery. But the novel also takes seriously the lessons these trying moments can teach – treats them, even, as a kind of redemption.” 
—Eric Andrew-Gee, The Globe and Mail (“The hope at the heart of Albert Camus’s plague novel, La peste”)

“Camus was preoccupied with the absurd . . . In The Plague he found a lens for projecting life at once suspended and more vivid . . . It is a redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.”
—Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post (“In Camus’ The Plague, lessons about fear, quarantine and the human spirit”)

“[A] gorgeous and profound meditation on life in the shadow of death . . . I can’t think of a better book to recommend to anyone just now . . . A cautionary tale on how to mismanage a crisis, an encyclopedia of human psychology, and of course a terrifying worst-case scenario for our current predicament . . . More important than the answers it provides are the questions it forces us to ask. What matters? Why do we live? How durable are our values? What do we owe one another? What is heroism? What is decency?”
—Daniel Akst, Strategy + Business (“Business Lessons from Albert Camus”)

“A humanist allegory for the trapped desolation of Nazi-occupied Europe, and the alternate cowardice and bravery in the face of a rampant death machine.” 
—Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair (“An Epidemic Novel for Every Kind of Reader”)

“[Camus] helps us understand our own responses, as a community and as individuals, in the face of extraordinary challenges.” 
—David Hage, The Star Tribune (“Albert Camus helps us understand our responses during this crisis”)

“The most telling passages in The Plague today are Camus’ beautifully crafted meditative observations of the social and psychological effects of the epidemic on the townspeople . . . Epidemics make exiles of people in their own countries, our narrator stresses. Separation, isolation, loneliness, boredom and repetition become the shared fate of all.”
—Matthew Sharpe, The Conversation (“Guide to the Classics: Albert Camus’ The Plague”)

“Surprisingly uplifting.”
—Courtney Vinopal, PBS News Hour (“8 books to read in the time of the coronavirus”)

Books for Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Every May we celebrate the rich history and culture of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Browse a curated selection of fiction and nonfiction books by AANHPI creators that we think your students will love. Find our collections of titles here: Middle School High School

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PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

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PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

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PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

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