***GroupRead: The Plague (Spoiler Free)

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2010

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***GroupRead: The Plague (Spoiler Free)

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Jan 4, 2010, 9:13am

Today is the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of Albert Camus (1913-1960), the winner of the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature. I mentioned this on my thread this morning, and that I planned to re-read The Plague, one of his most famous novels, later this year. deebee1 suggested a group read of the book, which several of us thought was a good idea. I was thinking of starting in April, which would give everyone a chance to acquire the book. I'm open to any suggestions or recommendations!

Jan 4, 2010, 3:31pm

I'll join in. I was planning on reading that this year, it will be my first time.

Jan 4, 2010, 5:29pm

I will be in provided I can locate a copy. I imagine you will have to remind me though, Darryl, come April :)

Jan 5, 2010, 10:10am


Thanks for organizing. Now I will just read along with you in April.

Jan 5, 2010, 3:24pm

My copy is on the way Darryl. i'm hoping you don't read too fast for me.

Jan 5, 2010, 3:58pm

I'll join this one. I'll have to get a copy of the book.

Editado: Jan 21, 2010, 2:48pm


Sounds like fun!
I've never done any GroupReads thingys before! So, please count me in!
I'll be reading La Peste - so it will certainly be interesting to compare notes - although I doubt that there will be too many identifiable differences between the French and the English translation?

I read L'etranger last August, and I believe that indirect references are made in La Peste to this earlier book (somewhere during the first chapter?) which always thrills me a little when authors do stuff like that.


Just got my copy of La Peste delivered today! So, all set for April. :-)

What happens during the read : do we stay in contact or anything like that? (not giving away any spoilers of course!)

Jan 12, 2010, 8:12pm

Darryl- This sounds like a great idea! I have read it but I'm due a re-read! See you in April!

Jan 13, 2010, 12:53am

I am interested in reading this, too. I will look for a copy. :)

Jan 13, 2010, 9:20am

It sounds interesting and I should be finished with the other group read (moby dick) by then. I love these group reads because they encourage me to read some of the classics and also books that I wouldn't neccesarily choose on my own. Thanks for organizing.

Jan 14, 2010, 8:05pm

I'm glad to see this group read! Just got the book.

Jan 23, 2010, 12:21pm

I have a copy which I read ages ago and it is definitely one I would like to reread. I look forward to it and the comments.

Thanks, Darryl.

(I may of course be so entangled in Infinite Jest and Enrique that I won't get there, but I may have also drowned my IJ by then in frustration. LOL)

Jan 23, 2010, 2:13pm

Ha! I hope that you can join us, Andrew.

I seem to be overextended at the moment, as well.

Jan 27, 2010, 8:31pm

I have always wanted to read this one and just never have, so count me in. And April sounds good to me. There are a lot of group reads going on right now.
Thank you, kidzdoc, for setting this one up. I will see you in April.

Jan 28, 2010, 11:53am

I have a copy of the book, so I may join in (depends on life and my other reading, in April).

So do we start reading in April, or are we expected to read before then, and start discussing in April ? Is it a whole book in 1 thread, or will it be broken into sections ? Just want to know so I can plan.

Jan 28, 2010, 2:38pm

I thought we should start reading it in April, and finish at the end of May, since many of us are participating in multiple group reads. What do y'all think?

I plan to read two books about Camus in the next couple of months, Albert Camus, the Algerian: Colonialism, Terrorism, Justice by David Carroll, and Albert Camus: A Life by Olivier Todd, so that I can learn a bit more about him.

Jan 28, 2010, 2:53pm

Interestingly today on NPR they did a story about France celebrating Camus all month since Nicholas Sarkozy wants to move Albert Camus' grave to Paris from the small French town where he was buried at the time of his death.

Read about it here.

Jan 28, 2010, 3:22pm

Yes, I had read about this absurd idea by Sarkozy earlier this month. Hopefully the weight of public opinion will convince the egomaniacal president to leave Camus where he is. You can be sure that, if he were still alive, Camus would be one of Sarkozy's fiercest critics, and I doubt that Sarkozy identifies in any way with Camus.

Jan 28, 2010, 11:37pm

#16: Works for me.

#17/18: Ridiculous idea!

Fev 14, 2010, 1:22pm

Count me in on this group read. Having just finished World Without End for Mark's (Msf59) group read, I find my curiosity about the plague whetted. I just knew I had a copy of it here, but found The Stranger by Camus instead. That's fine, as I'm always looking for a bona fide reason to hit the used bookstores.

Fev 14, 2010, 1:38pm

Great! I'm glad that you'll be joining us, Lisa.

I'm planning to read two books about Camus, in preparation for the group read: Albert Camus the Algerian: Colonialism, Terrorism, Justice by David Carroll, and Albert Camus: A Life by Olivier Todd. I'll probably also read his novel The First Man, which seems to be based on his early years in Algeria. I'll start posting more information about the read later this month.

Fev 14, 2010, 2:19pm

#20 I liked The Plague better than The Stranger, but that maybe because The Stranger is a little too close to The Trial which was as all Kafkas generally are, an amazing read!

Mar 6, 2010, 3:06pm

Just reviving this thread so I don't lose it. More details soon!

Mar 6, 2010, 5:36pm

Darryl- I'm still in!! Keeping my copy warm!

Mar 19, 2010, 4:31pm

The Plague is on my list of books to read. I've never done a group read before but I am eager to try it out. Count me in!

Mar 19, 2010, 6:44pm

it's almost April---I'll take it out of my school library and see you all soon! ((this will be my first group read...what a clever idea!)) -cc-

Mar 19, 2010, 8:23pm

#24-26: Great! I'll post a framework for the group read sometime between next weekend and the beginning of the following week.

Mar 30, 2010, 7:26pm

It's almost time to get started on The Plague. I am in the process of putting together a set of notes to provide a historical background to the book, taken mainly from the biography Albert Camus: A Life by Olivier Todd. A question to the group: should these notes be placed in the spoiler thread (yes vote), or the spoiler free thread (no vote)?

Votar: Should the background notes be placed in the spoiler thread?

Resultado atual: Sim 2, Não 10
Any suggestions, thoughts, etc. are welcome!

Mar 30, 2010, 8:43pm

With a book of this type, can one really "spoil" it with information? I don't think it is like a novel or mystery where one tries to work out the ending as one reads. That was really not Camus' point.

Editado: Mar 30, 2010, 8:50pm

Good point, Lisa; that makes perfect sense. The vote is currently 6-0 in favor of the notes being in the spoiler free thread, so I'll post them here by Thursday.

Editado: Mar 31, 2010, 9:27am

Background Notes for The Plague:

The Plague (La Peste) was published in 1947, five years after Camus began to work on it. His first two books, the existential novel The Stranger (L'Etranger) and the complimentary philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe), were published in 1942, to great critical acclaim, if not commercial success. Camus reviewed the first two books as his first cycle of writing, a study of the Absurd; The Plague and The Rebel (L'Homme révolté) were the main works of the second cycle, which was dedicated to Revolt, man's response to the Absurd.

In 1942, Camus was living in Oran, a large Algerian city on the coast of the Mediterranean which is the setting for the novel. There he met frequently with Emmanuel Roblès, a writer and schoolteacher who supplied Camus with information about the plague for his new book. Roblès also told Camus about his wife, who was stricken with epidemic typhus during the recent plague that struck hundreds of thousands of Algerians from 1941 to 1943, which was fatal in a large percentage of cases. Camus took notes of Roblès’ description, and incorporated it into the novel.

By 1943, Camus had moved to the mountains of France on the advice of his doctor, as he suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. During that year he published a pamphlet, Des Exilés de la Peste, which portrayed ‘the Plague as Nazism and the rats as Germans’. As Camus saw it, ‘The Plague is not absurd in itself, and to face it, man must revolt. As 200 million Europeans were prisoners of the Nazis, so 200,000 imaginary Oran residents were prisoners of the Plague.’

He continued to work on The Plague during the War years, when he also edited and wrote articles for the Resistance newspaper Combat, and he based several of the novel's characters on his colleagues. His intense activity at that time and after liberation prevented him from concentrating on the novel fully until the summer of 1946, when he was able to settle in the French village of Moutiers, with the help of the Gallimard family. He finished the novel at the end of 1946, and it was published early the following year.

According to Camus, “La Peste may be read in three different ways. It is at the same time a tale about an epidemic, a symbol of Nazi occupation (and incidentally the prefiguration of any totalitarian régime, no matter where), and, thirdly, the concrete illustration of a metaphysical problem, that of evil…which is what Melville tried to do with Moby-Dick, with genius added.”

Abr 3, 2010, 8:04pm

I've read the 1st 50 pages and it's amazing how the narrative draws you in. I love his descriptions of Oran and how "ugly" it is. I like this passage: "On the town, humped snailwise on its plateau and shut off almost everywhere from the sea, a mood of listlessness descended. Hemmed in by lines and lines of whitewashed walls, walking between rows of dusty shops, or riding in the dingy yellow streetcars, you felt, as it were, trapped by the climate."

Editado: Abr 4, 2010, 12:05am

Great work, Mark! Thanks for sharing that passage.

I will start reading the novel in earnest tomorrow (Sunday). It is divided into five uneven parts, and I would propose the following reading schedule (page numbers are based on the First Vintage International Edition):

Week 1 (April 3-9): Part One (pp 1-63)
Week 2 (April 10-16): Part Two (pp 65-164)
Week 3 (April 17-23): Parts Three and Four (pp 167-265)
Week 4 (April 24-30): Part Five (pp 267-308) and closing discussion

Another group question: should I compile a list of discussion questions?

Votar: Vote Yes if you want discussion questions, otherwise vote No

Resultado atual: Sim 4, Não 1, Indeciso 2

Editado: Abr 6, 2010, 10:16am

At the moment there are 4 yes votes for discussion questions, with 1 no vote and 2 undecided votes. So, I'll go ahead and post an initial list of questions. Please post your thoughts on the spoiler thread.

Here is an initial list of discussion questions for The Plague, taken from MonkeyNotes (http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/monkeynotes/pmPlague47.asp)

1. Fully describe Dr. Rieux. Why is he so important to the novel?

2. Explain the conflict of the novel and how it is resolved.

3. Does Camus’ attempt at making The Plague a chronicle detract from its success as a novel?

4. Fully describe Tarrou, Grand, and Rambert and explain Rieux’s relationships with each of them. What do his friendships with these men reveal about Rieux as a person?

5. How do the actions of Tarrou and Rieux prove that they live by their asserted moral codes?

6. What are the major Themes of the novel and how are they developed?

7. How is the novel allegorical?

8. Analyze Camus’ treatment of suffering, death, and God in The Plague.

9. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of making Rieux the narrator of The Plague.

I'll probably post some additional questions and thoughts to the spoiler thread as I continue to read the book; please feel free to do the same.

Abr 6, 2010, 6:27pm

I have the book and plan to read it, and want to join in the fun, but I won't be able to start reading until the middle to the end of the month.

I have books for 4 book groups and an ER book I have to read first. So I will lurk on the non-spoiler thread until I can actually read.