Critical Insights: The Plague
Sales of Albert Camus’s The Plague surged during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The novel’s prescient descriptions of isolation camps and public panic resonated with those living with lockdowns and constant fear. Considered a classic of the existentialist movement (though Camus objected to this label), scholars have long engaged with the novel’s absurdist elements. On one level a simple tale of the universal, ultimately unwinnable, struggle against death, The Plague also explores individual moral courage, secular and religious, in the face of overwhelming tragedy. As an advocate for personal integrity despite an absence of religious or philosophical meaning, Camus became a spokesman for the generation that had witnessed the Holocaust and other horrors of World War II. This new volume provides a starting point for viewing the novel through a historic as well as a modern lens. Essays approach this important work in terms of its critical reception, its profound impact on the literary scene at the time of its publication, and its connection to the twenty-first century.