Albert Camus, on the right, winning his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. This week's Quarantine Club discussion questions are at the end of this post. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
You made it! You made it through Part One of The Plague
, full of feverish crotches, rats bleeding from the mouth, and cats being spit on, among other odd horrors. In a previous post
, I mentioned Michel, the concierge who thought the reason dead rats kept showing up in the hallways of his hotel was because youngsters were leaving them there for him to find, messing with him. Well, now Michel is dead. That's what he gets for underestimating the problem.
Intriguingly, the narrator of The Plague is going to turn out to be one of the characters currently being referred to in the third person. Camus writes, in a parenthetical, that the narrator's "identity will be made known in due course." I didn't realize how brilliant that was the first time I read the book, but I see it clearly now: We all know a plague is coming, we all know many characters are going to die, but we don't know which characters are going to die yet—although, obviously, whoever is narrating the book is not going to die, otherwise he or she would not be able to narrate the book. That alone provides some tension and mystery right away. The third-person narration does something else as well: It gives the book a more non-fiction feeling than a first-person novel, almost like we are reading a piece of journalism instead of a work of art.
At the bottom of this post, there are three discussion questions for you.
You may answer any or all of the discussion questions in the comments. To show you how to format your answers, I am going to leave my own answers as the first comment on this post. But, you do not have to answer the discussion questions if you don't want to. If you'd like to make a comment unrelated to the discussion questions, or if you'd like to comment on someone else's comment, go for it. (The comments are automatically numbered as they post. To comment on my first comment, which will be comment 1, you would begin your comment by writing "@1 — You're such an idiot, Frizzelle..." or whatever.)
If you're a more visual person, feel free to comment instead on the photos everyone sent in! This is how we're all going to get to know each other, us members of the Quarantine Club. I received photos from all around the world, and even though I tried to include a lot of people, I did not include everyone. If you sent me a small, dark, grainy, or boring photo, I may not have included it. There were also dozens of submissions that showed up in my email as gibberish letters and numbers. If you did not have your photo included, maybe try retaking it, or resending it. I will include any new photos I receive in next Tuesday's post, when we discuss Part Two.
Note: Many Quarantine Club members included pets in their photos, which I highly encourage. No one who submitted photos yet seems to have any pet rats, which is a shame. Unlike cats, rats do not try to stand between you and your book when you're trying to read. I had pet rats as a kid, and they used to sit on top of my head as I read. Unfortunately, they also all developed tumors over time, which got so big that their skin would break open, and their entrails would spill out... okay, sorry, TMI. I have been reading too much about plagues.
Julia in Tacoma is reading The Plague for the first time. She says, "Not pictured is my sipping glass of Dewars."
Katherine in San Francisco sent this picture of her reading couch and her reading buddy, Albie, a white shepherd/yellow lab mix.
Chris is a native Seattleite currently living in Mexico City. "I'm not really quarantined—there are few cases here in Mexico City—but I am washing my hands a lot." Here he is reading in the plaza of la Iglesia de la Concepcion in the neighborhood of Coyoacan.
Ana, a nurse working in an ER in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says: "I’ve never read The Plague, but am fascinated to. Especially given the current world circumstances, ahem."
Gitane in the Seattle neighborhood of Greenwood says she bought this edition of the book "in the early 90s when I was in college. I remember it was one of my favorites but I haven't read it since."
Kate in northwestern Connecticut is reading The Plague for the first time, and says, "Doing a lot of social distancing out in nature!"
Chris in Seattle is reading the book in the original French. "Here's the view from my back patio in the Central District, trying to get some much-needed Vitamin D and fresh air despite the cold."
Maria is "reading The Plague for the third time (I think), from this cozy orange chair in South Seattle."
James in LA says, "This is my first time reading The Plague. The only Camus I’ve read is The Stranger, so I’m excited."
Tracy, south of Olympia, first read The Plague as a freshman at Western Washington University in 1987. "I don't remember anything about reading it from back then, though my occasional class notes are interesting to read!" That is her service dog, Prim, a Clumber Spaniel, wearing Tracy's reading glasses.
Susannah in Philadelphia says this is her first time reading The Plague and that "everyone is on edge and staying home" where she lives.
Judson, a trumpet instructor at the University of Puget Sound, says, "Tonight I was drinking a Chardonnay, though the book really goes better with a weighty red."
Chase in Seattle sent this pic of his reading chair in an old brick building on Capitol Hill.
Paul in Collingswood, New Jersey, is reading The Plague (for the first time) on an e-book, next to his cat Zoe. "Use your mind's eye to insert me under the cat; that's my usual reading position."
Nichole in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, sent this view from her reading chair.
Maggie, location undisclosed, send this picture of her reading spot.
Lauren, a teacher in Seattle now running remote classes, has been multitasking. "I've been reading The Plague on my personal computer between lessons and over lunch."
Laura in Portland, Oregon, in the neighborhood of Woodstock, sent this pic of the view from her daybed.
Greg in Campbell, California, says he's reading The Plague for the first time and adds, "May your isolation be bearable and your toilet paper plentiful."
Chase, who lives in Seattle, on Capitol Hill, says, "Whilst reading about dead rats, I’m eating a lot of health food." The shy dog's name is Bunty.
Sarah Lynn, in bed in Independence, Oregon, reading aloud to her boyfriend Bobby over the phone. "We are both big fans of The Plague, and are enjoying reading this book during these uncertain times... It's really quite romantic not knowing if this time together will be our last."
Catherine in Seattle is reading it in French on a Kindle. "It’s been a couple of decades since I’ve read a novel in French. Slow going, but fun, and an eerily perfect choice. Somehow wearing a mask to the grocery store seems like no big deal compared to finding millions of dead rats in the hallway."
Andrea in the Seattle neighborhood of Wallingford says, "Here’s my reading chair and reading buddy." His name is Bruno.
Gayle says, "I live in NYC, have never read The Plague (only Camus I've read is The Stranger), and am teleworking full time."
Tobias sent no information, just this photo. (Is that a weed pipe, Tobias? Can you read when you're stoned? I can't. I just get lost in the loops of the letters...)
Colleen in West Seattle mixed that purple quarantini using Empress Gin. "I like the contrast of the stiff, tough, sophisticated culture around martinis and the pure silliness/novelty of color-changing gin."
Sue in Seattle got her copy at the Shoreline library before it went into lockdown. "I rekindled my relationship with my Grandma’s old chair so that I could participate in your novel idea (pun very much intended)."
Billy is a screenwriter in Vancouver, BC.
Andrea in Newburyport, MA, first read La Peste as an undergraduate major in French literature. Now she's reading it in English. "Reading is the answer to just about everything, isn't it?" Yes, it is, Andrea!
Gabe in Lake Forest Park, just north of Seattle, says, "The days and nights have been blending together." He read The Plague for the first time about 15 years ago.
Gabe also said, "I tried to read with our pet pig Bobo (above). Although he looks very smart in his sweater, he just wanted to eat the book."
A. What are some similarities and differences between what's happening in the book and what's happening in your real life?
B. Who is your favorite character so far, and why?
C. What is your favorite sentence so far?* * *The Quarantine Club "meets" in the comments section of a weekly Slog post that goes up Tuesday late afternoon. A few thoughts on the opening pages are here. Part One discussion group is here: 🐀. Part Two discussion group is here: 🐀🐀. Part Three discussion group is here: 🐀🐀🐀.