Short summary - The State of Siege - Albert Camus

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The State of Siege
Albert Camus

Version 1

VERY BRIEF: The plague captures the Spanish city of Cadiz and establishes its ownin it. Only those who overcome the fear of the Plague will free people.
State of Siege is a three-part show. In the preface, the author points to his alleged co-author Jean-Louis Barrot, who conceived the idea of the play-myth about the plague. Camus also argues that "this is not a play with a traditional structure, but a performance, where the principle of mixing all dramatic forms of expression - from lyrical monologue to crowd scenes, including pantomime, ordinary dialogue, farce and chorus is deliberately taken".
The first part begins with an alarming sign: a comet flew over the Spanish city of Cadiz. What does this sign mean? Someone is sure that war is coming soon, someone considers the comet a harbinger of heat. However, many believe that clouds are gathering over Cadiz, trouble is close. Nada, a wandering drunkard, claims that "our business has been bad for a long time," and soon it will be even worse. "When people begin to destroy everything around, including each other, it turns out that the Lord God, who is also a master in this area, is just a child compared to them."
Diego, the young doctor, does not care what the comet warns about, the main thing is not to be cowardly. He loves the judge's daughter Victoria, is going to marry her. Meanwhile, the governor decides to pretend that nothing happened, because "a good governor is a governor in whose reign nothing happens," and even the slightest mention of a cosmic sign is forbidden to the townspeople. Nada pointedly notes that lying is "not stupidity, this is politics." And here on the market square life is in full swing, someone praises their goods, remembering the morning comet, someone accidentally recalls the sign in conversation, and lovers Diego and Victoria coo. But suddenly someone in the crowd suddenly falls to the ground. After examining the patient, Diego, with considerable effort, pronounces a diagnosis disappointing for the whole city - the plague.
In the palace of the judges, the governor is informed about the growth of the epidemic, he is upset that this happened just when he was about to go hunting. At the same time in church people confess, atone for sins. Diego, not sparing himself, helps the sick. Victoria wants to see him, but he is full of fear of illness, of death.
A man and a woman in military uniforms appear on the scene. It is the Plague that drives away the government and seizes power over Cadiz, and its Secretary, who crosses out the names of people from her notebook, thereby killing them. New orders are established in the city: to mark houses and people with black plague stars, food is supplied only to people "useful" for the city, denunciations of the sick and the infected are encouraged, men and women must live separately, and finally, everyone must keep a gag in their mouths. “What does it matter to you, the Plague or the Governor? The state is the state, ”says Nada.
So, the city is closing, nowhere to run. The first part of the play ends with the monologue of the Plague, where he declares that when he reigns, he will bring order and teach the inhabitants of the city "to die in an organized manner," "in an administrative order."
Plague issues orders, people continue to die, Secretary keeps records. An ordinary fisherman now needs to get a certificate of existence, which cannot be obtained without a certificate of health, which cannot be obtained without a first certificate. People get stuck in bureaucracy, in meaningless papers, where everything becomes official, down to the motives of marriage and the reasons for existence.
The inhabitants of Cadiz do not understand anything. “The less they [people] understand, the better they will obey” - the credo of the new government. Husbands are sent to God knows where, wages are low, houses are requisitioned - the city is a complete mess, called a systemic organization. The drunken Nada, whose name means Nothing, joins the Plague administration and the Secretary. "One good plague is better than two democracies." But Diego is a supporter of prudence, for which the Plague rewards him with symptoms of the plague. Driven by fear and despair, he bursts into the Judge's house. He immediately wants to surrender it, since it serves the law. “And if the law is criminal? "If a crime becomes a law, it ceases to be a crime." To stop the Judge, Diego threatens to infect his youngest son, who, like the Judge (this is a child from his wife's infidelity), is also hated by his sister. Diego is ashamed that all of them, like himself, have become soulless, and he runs away.
Meanwhile, Nada and the Judge are discussing the election of a new government, that is, Plague, who will unconditionally win, since all ballots with votes against are canceled. “But you said that the elections are free? "They are free ... You still had the wrong idea of freedom." And Diego and Victoria are in confusion: he is confused, does not understand anything, she is madly in love with him, she is even ready to die in his arms. He hugs her, wanting to infect, he does not want others to enjoy the beauty of his beloved after his death, but she does not develop symptoms of the plague. She hugs him boldly. He gets scared and runs away.
On the seashore, Diego meets a boatman who carries food to people fleeing an epidemic on the island. Diego wants to run away, but the Secretary appears out of nowhere. His fear prevents him from accomplishing his plans. The secretary "crosses out" the boatman, a death scream is heard from the boat. Diego openly despises the Secretary, he is dear to her, but for a young man her hatred is better than her smiles. She talks about her craft, which is quite tedious. Diego is boiling, he promises an early end to the new government. This government only wants to "kill to end murder, resort to violence to establish justice." Furious, he slaps the Secretary. The plague marks on Diego's body disappear. There is one flaw in the mechanism of this power - it is enough for a person to overcome fear, to rebel, and then "the machine will creak." Diego forgets about fear. The sky is clearing.
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Part three describes the riot of Diego and the townspeople of Cadiz. Now Diego is in charge of buildings, sets people up for rebellion, relieving them of fear. But people are hesitant. When the Plague orders Diego to be deleted, the Secretary replies that she is powerless, because he has ceased to be afraid. People take out gags. They grab the notebook from the Secretary. The Judge's daughter crosses out someone's name, and the sound of a man falling to the floor is heard in the Judge's house. The crowd takes the notebook from the scum and crosses it out. Then they want to clean up and remove some unworthy people. Plague: “Well! They do our work themselves! " Diego rips the notebook to shreds.
But the Plague has another way of influencing Diego. Victoria writhing in agony is carried out on a stretcher. The plague offers the guy a deal: if Diego agrees to retreat and give up the city, then the disease will not touch him or his beloved. But Diego stands firm on his own. He agrees to give his life for the lives of all residents of the city and his beloved. And then the Plague says that the guy passed the last test. "The only thing worth being true is your contempt." If the young man agreed to give the city to the Plague, he would die along with his beloved. And now the city has every chance of gaining freedom. "One madman like you is enough ...". But the madman himself dies. Diego has terrible signs of the plague on his body. The secretary transforms into an old death woman. She cannot take Diego right away, she is not at ease. Before the plague, she was free and random, no one despised her, but now she is obliged to serve logic and the charter. She fell in love with Diego because he, in his own way, took pity on her.
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plague is leaving. In his farewell monologue, he claims that God is an anarchist, that he himself chose a method of suppression that is more serious than in hell. "The ideal is to get as many slaves as possible with a minimum of properly selected dead." "By destroying or crushing the required number of people, we will bring whole nations to their knees." But Death is sure that one can triumph over everything except pride. As stubborn as the plague is, human love is still more stubborn. Victoria immediately recovers, but Diego falls on his face. Victoria wants to die with him, but the world needs her. She’s sure he’d better continue to be afraid. Diego dies.
The former government is returning. But instead of mourning the dead, they reward each other with orders, arrange ceremonies. The gates of the city swing open. Strong wind blows. Nada, addressing people, says that "you cannot live well, feeling that a person is nothing, and God's face is terrible." Nada throws herself into the sea. The play ends with Rybak's words: “Oh water, about the sea, the fatherland of the rebels, here is your people, and they will never retreat. The high rampart, born of the bitterness of the waters, will carry away your cities forever. "



Version 2

Part One
Disturbing music sounds and everyone on the stage watches the approaching comet in horror. The comet reaches enormous size, then moves away. Everyone foresees trouble, only the officer calmly forces everyone to disperse.
A drunken cripple Nada appears, who also portends trouble. After a short dispute between Nada and the judge about the comet's prophecy, a herald appears, orders everyone to disperse and not remember the phenomenon - this is an order of the governor who loves stability.
... we were scared ... suddenly something changes and the beggars will have to eat chocolate. But you took care of us, good ruler, you said that nothing happened ... And we immediately calmed down.
The choir sings that nothing happened, and everything continues as it was. The scenes on the market confirm this. Diego, a medical student, and Victoria, the judge's daughter, in love with each other, are excited about their recent engagement and talk about their feelings. The astrologer tells the woman about her future, but, as Nada notes, he does not see his imminent death.
This is followed by scenes from the market again. Gypsies, fishermen, actors - all are busy with their daily affairs and do not remember the comet. The choir sings again that nothing happened.
Suddenly one of the actors falls to the disturbing music, everyone surrounds him. After inspection, Diego states the reason: the plague. Everyone is in a panic.
Then there are scenes from the palace, the judge's house and the church at the same time. The palace is alarmed, but consoled by the thought that so far the plague is spread only among the poor. In the church, the priest calls everyone to repentance. The judge reads the psalter at home and forbids his wife to leave the house.
At this time, Victoria meets Diego, who helps the sick. He is tired, scared, anxious and almost does not notice Victoria, which upsets her. The Ascalds prohibit public gatherings, but at the same time urge to remain calm.
There is a knock at the gate. Enter a man in military uniform and a woman. The man tells the governor that he wants to take his place, but he is indignant at first. Then the stranger advises the secretary to cross out. She crosses out something in her notebook, and the guard falls.
The governor changes his mind and leaves the city along with his entourage, having received guarantees of immunity from a stranger. At the same time, he pretends that he does it voluntarily.
It turns out that the stranger is the plague. He immediately begins to rule, the heralds announce the orders of the plague one after another. The people are in a panic, they want to leave the city, but all the city gates are closed. The choir sings that people are left to fend for themselves. The plague claims that he rules clearly and harmoniously, but only in his own way - he does not like sentimentality, he is for order.
Part two
The square in Cadiz, where the cemetery office is located. The gravediggers, recruited from the prisoners, load the corpses into the cart. Then the front wall of the cemetery office pulls back. A long queue becomes visible - people receive certificates of existence.
... a person always needs help. You can do without bread and without a wife, but you cannot do without a properly certified certificate for any occasion in life!
Askald asks stupid questions to the fisherman, then sends him further through the offices. Nada also serves immediately, who advocates to abolish everything. Then Diego arrives and refuses to wear the plague badge. The fisherman returns, he is sent away again.
Women appear worried about their husbands. Then the supplicants appear, whom Nada rebuffs. Nobody considers people, and the choir sings about it. But everyone is silent.
Diego does not understand why everyone is silent, trying to oppose the plague, but he has the first sign of illness, he runs and hides in the judge's house. The house is surrounded, and the judge tries to expel the guest, but his wife and Victoria are against.
This moment reveals a number of troubles in the relationship between the judge, his wife, two daughters and a young son. It turns out that the son is not from the judge, but the middle daughter hates him. In the end, Diego himself jumps out of the window. Victoria runs after him.
On the front stage, he explains to her that he is ashamed, he feels unworthy, wants to run away from here, and she calms him down and wants the old relationship. First, he avoids her, then hugs her to die together. She does not resist, she goes to him, expressing her support, and says that her weapon is love. Diego runs away.
He runs to the embankment and asks the boatman to take him to a plague-free ship standing in the roadstead. For a fee, the boatman agrees, but then the plague secretary appears. They talk about her craft, life and death. She admits that she is not indifferent to Diego, at the end of the conversation he ceases to be afraid of her and the signs of the plague disappear from him.
Diego becomes free. He understands that the main thing is not to be afraid, to protest, and this guarantees recovery. Diego begins to take out the gags of the fishermen standing on the stage. The long-awaited wind blows from the sea.
Part Three
Diego leads the inhabitants of Cadiz, who rebuild the sinister structures of the Plague. He demands disobedience from the people, but the chorus expresses lack of confidence in their abilities. The plague and the secretary are trying to return everything to its place. People hesitate between the calls of Diego and the Plague.
Diego is no longer under the control of the secretary of the plague, because he has ceased to be afraid. The secretary crosses out several people, they fall. This leaves people confused, but Diego continues to call for resistance.
During the discussion, people snatch the notebook from the secretary. He ends up in the hands of the judge's younger sister, who crosses out her brother. The notebook is taken away and deleted by itself, then torn to pieces, but the secretary assures that there is a duplicate.
The plague leaves and returns with a captive - sick Victoria. The plague offers Diego a deal: either he leaves the doomed city with the recovered Victoria, or the inhabitants of the city recover, but Victoria dies.
If there is a woman's face in the world that resembles life itself, then this is her face. She is worthy of life, and you want her to live ... Make your choice.
Diego offers himself instead of Victoria. The plague approves of the choice, although it does not understand why sacrifice oneself for the sake of an unworthy city.
Diego falls ill and Victoria comes to life. The secretary is sorry, but forced to do what is ordered. Diego dies. The wind begins to blow, the plague leaves, the city is saved, the former authorities and the former life return. Frustrated, Nada throws himself into the sea.