Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 18, 2020

At the end of Part III Camus explores the flattening of the plague, the way “exile and separation” leads the townspeople into “the very system of the plague,” which is  “mediocre.” “No one among us experienced great feelings any more, but everyone had banal feelings.” His description of how everyone is reduced to the present tense is so resonant; I have been thinking about that myself these last days, faced with impossible decisions about a family member. How do we make decisions when we don’t know the future? “In other words, they no longer made choices…Everything was accepted as it came.” This statement too is a frightening one, a warning, a reality we must fight hard against, as we can: “The truth must be told: the plague had taken away from all of them the power of love or even of friendship, for love demands some future, and for us there was only the here and now.”

MEETING TOMORROW AT 2 EST! Visit to register. 

FOR MONDAY: First 7 pages of Part IV, through with the paragraph that begins “It often happened that Tarrou would go out…”

2 thoughts on “Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 18, 2020

  1. Nicoletta Suter

    I read chapter three all in one breath and it let me astonished, there are so many similarities with what we are living in the present through our own experience. Two are the most important things I outlined in your post: first of all feelings are going to become flat, the risk is “indifference”, no interest in other people’s life and suffering, the polar opposite of empathy. If you pay attention only to health problems and you don’t mind and take care of people’s psychological and emotional reactions, the plague will wipe out the human features which instead are necessary to cope with it. What we are doing in the present time is to enhance the strength of our communities (at work, in the families, national and international networks, such ours) in order to avoid the “plague of indifference, of loneliness and despair”.
    Moreover, you well outlined the risk of blind submission to a state of curfew. Sanitary rules are fundamental to contrast the outbreak, but it is necessary to help people focus on some strategies to face this long, very long time of constriction, social isolation, loss of common habits, in a word to be able to adapt to the changing context. The total annihilation caused by fear and panic is another big risk. Many people are living now in numbness that prevents them from looking onward. We need to feel alive, instead, to have small but persistent daily goals, to spend some time to talk with others and to take care of others (in the many ways which are possible, I mean both from a health or educational or relational viewpoint); in the end, to take care of the self, not selfishly, but to maintain the direction and the motivation, to find out certainties in these uncertain times.
    Reading this book, I am coming aware of the big metaphor Camus is offering us: pay attention, the plague is not only a disease of the body, but it also attacks the “community’s immune system”: Will we be able as social communities to react and reinforce resilience?
    Thank you so much for all these important prompts of refection!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lynn Lawrence

    Further thoughts . I never wanted to re-read “The Plague”, especially at this moment in time, and now it’s reverberating in everything I see and think.

    Lost and found “in translation” :
    On Laura Marris’ article on translation, I found this sentence most corresponds to my reading of “The Plague” :
    “It was — and is — very difficult to focus, to navigate between each sentence and its real-time double, to find the fuzzy edges where these reflections meet.”

    Within the text itself an illustration of how the French is so much richer :
    “Rambert semblait une ombre perdue” …}
    “Rambert looked pathetically lost”
    Commentary : The French is so much closer to the mood. “Ombre” in French means “color which is shaded” In the “Inferno”, “ombre” refers to the “shades”, dead souls, that Dante meets on his journey.

Myth of Sisyphus :
    Rambert says, “I’ll have to start all over again, from scratch”. (his plans for escaping foiled again). Then again, in talking to Rieux, he says, “you don’t understand (about the plague) : it’s the same thing over and over again”.

    Art :
    Lastly, a work of art from Banksy that is a vivid illustration of what we’re reading. Trigger warning : shows rats.

    I so appreciated Nicoletta’s post, especially the “flattening of our feelings”. Thank you.


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