In today’s pages we see the toll that the work is starting to have on Rieux. The “abstraction” (for those reading the French, I’m curious if this is the correct translation?) of the disease, and of the personal suffering that follows it, is taken up, the “monotony” of the plague and life under its tyranny. And we see Rieux’s capacity narrowing, in perhaps the most heartbreaking few sentences in the book so far: “[He] found his only consolation for these exhausting days in this feeling of a heart slowly closing around itself. He knew that it would make his task easier. That is why he welcomed it.” I wonder how many of us — healthcare providers or not — recognize ourselves in this statement? “To struggle against abstraction, one must come to resemble it a little.” This is a statement that makes so much sense, and yet it seems clear this numbness, this “abstraction,” is exactly what we must continue to resist.
FOR TOMORROW: read next 7 pages, to the section break, paragraph beginning with “But the sounds of running feet returned.”