Short summary - The Plague - Albert Camus

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Plague
Albert Camus

The novel is an eyewitness account of the plague that broke out in 194 ... in the city of Oran, a typical French prefecture on the Algerian coast. The story is told on behalf of Dr. Bernard Rieux, who led the anti-plague measures in the infected city.
Plague comes to this city, devoid of vegetation and does not know the singing of birds, unexpectedly. It all starts with the fact that dead rats appear on the streets and in houses. Soon, thousands of them are gathered every day throughout the city.On the very first day of the invasion of these gloomy harbingers of disaster, not yet knowing about the catastrophe threatening the city, Dr. His mother moved in to help with the housework.
The first to die of the plague was the doorkeeper in the doctor's house. No one in the city yet suspects that the disease that has befallen the city is a plague. The number of cases is increasing every day. Dr. Rieux orders a serum in Paris, which helps patients, but only slightly, and soon it runs out. The prefecture of the city becomes aware of the need to declare quarantine. Oran becomes a closed city.
One evening the doctor is summoned by his longtime patient, an employee of the mayor's office by the name of Gran, whom the doctor treats for free because of his poverty. His neighbor, Kottar, tried to commit suicide. The reason that prompted him to take this step is not clear to Gran, but later he draws the doctor's attention to the strange behavior of his neighbor. After this incident, Kottar begins to show extraordinary courtesy in dealing with people, although he was previously unsociable. The doctor suspects that Cottard has a bad conscience, and now he is trying to earn the favor and love of others.
Gran himself is an elderly man, thin build, timid, with difficulty choosing words to express his thoughts. However, as the doctor later becomes aware, he has been writing a book during his free hours for many years and dreams of composing a truly masterpiece. All these years he has been polishing one single, first phrase.
At the beginning of the epidemic, Dr. Rieux meets journalist Raymond Rambert who has arrived from France and Jean Tarrou, still quite young, athletic-built man with calm, gaze of gray eyes. Tarru, from the very beginning of his arrival in the city, a few weeks before the unfolding events, has been keeping a notebook, where he makes detailed observations of the inhabitants of Oran, and then of the development of the epidemic. Subsequently, he becomes a close friend and companion of the doctor and organizes sanitary brigades from volunteers to fight the epidemic.
From the moment of the announcement of the quarantine, residents of the city begin to feel like they are in a prison. They are forbidden to send letters, swim in the sea, go outside the city, guarded by armed guards. The city is gradually running out of food, which is used by smugglers like Cottard; the gap is growing between the poor, forced to drag out a beggarly existence, and the wealthy inhabitants of Oran, who allow themselves to buy food at exorbitant prices on the black market, live luxuriously in cafes and restaurants, and visit entertainment establishments. Nobody knows how long this horror will last. People live in one day.
Rambert, feeling like a stranger in Oran, rushes to Paris to his wife. First by official means, and then with the help of Cottard and smugglers, he tries to escape from the city. Dr. Rie, meanwhile, works twenty hours a day, caring for the sick in the infirmaries. Seeing the dedication of the doctor and Jean Tarrou, Rambert, when he has a real opportunity to leave the city, abandons this intention and joins Tarrou's sanitary squads.
In the midst of the epidemic, which takes a huge number of lives, the only person in the city who is satisfied with the state of affairs remains Kottar, because, using the epidemic, he makes a fortune for himself and does not have to worry that the police will remember him and the trial started against him will resume.
Many people who have returned from special quarantine institutions, who have lost their loved ones, lose their minds and burn their own homes, hoping in this way to stop the spread of the epidemic. Marauders rush into the fire in front of indifferent owners and plunder everything that they can carry on themselves.
At first, funeral rites are performedall the rules. However, the epidemic is gaining such a scale that soon the bodies of the dead have to be thrown into the ditch, the cemetery can no longer accept all the dead. Then their bodies begin to be taken out of the city, where they are burned. The plague has been raging since spring. In October, Dr. Castel creates a serum in Oran itself from the virus that has taken over the city, because this virus is somewhat different from its classic version. Pneumonic plague is added to bubonic plague over time.
They decide to try the serum on a hopeless patient, the son of investigator Othon. Dr. Rie and his friends watch the agony of the child for several hours in a row. He cannot be saved. They grieve this death, the death of a sinless being. However, with the onset of winter, at the beginning of January, more and more cases of recovery of patients begin to repeat themselves, this happens, for example, with Gran. Over time, it becomes obvious that the plague begins to unclench its claws and, exhausted, release its victims from its embrace. The epidemic is waning.
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At first, city residents perceive this event in the most controversial way. With joyful excitement, they are thrown into despondency. They do not yet fully believe in their salvation. During this period, Cottar communicates closely with Dr. Rie and with Tarru, with whom he conducts frank conversations that when the epidemic ends, people will turn away from him, Cottar. In Tarru's diary, the last lines, already in illegible handwriting, are dedicated to him. Suddenly Tarru falls ill, with both types of plague at the same time. The doctor fails to save his friend.
One February morning, the city, finally declared open, rejoices and celebrates the end of a terrible period. Many, however, feel they will never be the same again. The plague introduced a new trait in their character - a certain detachment.
One day, Dr. Rie, heading towards Gran, sees how Cottar, in a state of insanity, shoots at passers-by from his window. The police barely manage to neutralize him. Gran resumes writing the book, the manuscript of which he ordered to be burned during his illness.
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Dr. Rie, returning home, receives a telegram stating the death of his wife. He is in great pain, but he realizes that there is no randomness in his suffering. The same incessant pain had plagued him for the past several months. Listening to the joyful screams coming from the street, he thinks that any joy is under threat. The plague germ never dies, it is able to doze for decades, and then the day may come when the plague will once again awaken the rats and send them to lay around on the streets of the happy city.