Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 11, 2020

It was difficult to choose a quote from today’s pages because there are so many that resonate. The narrator discusses Tarrou’s “health groups,” made of civilians risking their health to take care of those suffering. He says he doesn’t want to “attribute more significance” to these groups because he believes that “by giving too much importance to fine actions one may end by paying an indirect but powerful tribute to evil, because in so doing one implies that such fine actions are only valuable because they are rare, and that malice or indifference are far more common motives in the actions of men.” We are all so heartened, in America, by the “fine actions” we see by so many around us — and of course we must continue to give them significance! — but it is against the backdrop of so much seeming indifference that we must not accept as more common. “…There always comes a time in history when the person who dares to say that two and two make four is punished by death. The schoolmaster knows this quite well. And the question is not what reward or punishment awaits the demonstration; it is knowing whether or not two and two do make four.” This quote speaks to us of the struggle between facts, science, and lies and spin. And finally: “…the conclusion was always what they knew it would be: one must fight, in one way or another, and not go down on one’s knees.” 

FOR MONDAY: Read next 7 pages, to the line (in dialogue), “‘That man…is Enemy Number One.” 

TOMORROW: JOIN OUR SECOND ZOOM CALL! 4pm Eastern. Register here:

3 thoughts on “Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 11, 2020

  1. Patricia D.

    Now we are reaching the part where the allegory is more evident: Camus was apparently writing about Nazi occupied France – the rats were the warning that the world leaders and common people refused to acknowledge; those who were in power chose to minimize and not act to protect the population; nonetheless some brave souls did engage rather than turn their backs on their fellow citizens when the worst arrived. Camus was an existentialist who believed we must take responsibility and act when faced with evil or calamity. Dr. R may not only be the narrator but he is Camus’ voice. When he reads Tarrou’s notebook he has the opportunity to share his views, sort out his confusion. Looking forward to sharing with you today.


  2. Anne C.

    I was intrigued with the Tarrou Rieux conversation that digs into the question of what drives our desire to care. Tarrou asks if R doesn’t believe in God then why does he show such devotion? R responds “to defend them” (his patients). T asks “against whom?”
    I love that Camus offers these philosophical debates while the chaos of the epidemic is taking place. It makes me wonder if a similar exploration is taking place for many people during our own pandemic?
    I have also been thinking about Nellie’s observation that all the cafes are open? Why? It seems the cafes/bars represent “essential services “ much as our liquor stores being open do. In addition they certainly represent a way for connection to take place, like the “internet” of the day. I think of these cafes as a mash up and a sort of “zoom cocktail party” environment. Still curious that he made this choice as the contagion is everywhere


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.