Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 29, 2020

Today’s pages bring the beginning of the end of the plague. There is no clear reason for the plague’s demise; “one merely had the feeling that the disease had exhausted itself, or perhaps that it was retiring after achieving all of its objectives. In a sense, its role was completed.” Of course our own plague is far from over, but Camus’s description of the townspeople’s impatience with their hope still resonates, as we begin to wrestle with our own impatience and surmise about plans for how to live in the meantime. Our path out of this will not be as simple as that of the folks in Oran; still, one does hope for the day that we might smile in the street.  


FOR TOMORROW: Next 7 pages, to paragraph beginning “The doctor said that the same was true of Tarrou…” 

2 thoughts on “Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 29, 2020

  1. Patricia D.

    It seems to me that it is ending because Camus has had the opportunity, via various characters, to express his views on life and death. The randomness of the plague coming and going is a point to ponder. Using “good and bad” characters to exemplify how people repond or react in a crisis helps Camus to do this. Some people evolve into so-called heros, and others fail to rise up to the opportunity to serve with honour. This book helps us reflect on where we stand now, and what we can do collectively to act with compassion and awareness. As our confinment slowing eases, how will be behave?

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  2. Jayne Mackta

    Consider how Camus explores the search for meaning in life, death and language. With the onset of “abstraction,” Rieux can no longer respond to individuals and suffers from bleak indifference. Pity is useless. Words don’t matter. Even groans, which become the normal speech of men, lose meaning. Grand’s real problem that “he couldn’t find hjs words.” He seeks perfection and labors over simple words without inherent meaning. He wants Rieux to “hear” his work which raises an important question about the value of language as a way of connecting, overcoming separation (caused by distance, time and lack of understanding) and expressing emotion. In this time of Plague, words are stripped down to their essence. No room (in telegrams or texts) for nuance. Phrases considered commonplace or banal serve to say it all: I love you. I miss you. I am fine. Words are painted as the opposite of action, and it is too late to show somebody how you feel when they are dead. Trite but true, actions speak louder than words. Perhaps “living” words lose value and meaning when they have have nowhere to land. Camus explores many kinds of language: plain narrative, anecdote, the daily paper… the language of reason, of the heart, language of the facts…all summed up in Cottard’s description of Tarrou: “Tarrou’s a fellow one can talk to because he’s really human. He always understands.”

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