Quarantine Club: Part Two of The Plague

Plus, good news for procrastinators!



A. The scene of Grand reading his first sentence to Dr. Rieux, and just OBSESSING over his own (atrociously overwrought) writing, cracks me up. The margins are filled with "ha"s and "haha"s and "hahahahaha"s.

B. Honestly it kind of surprised me when Rambert went to "cafe after cafe," because cafes in Seattle are closed, and somehow I got the rules in the book and the rules in real life mixed up. It also surprised me what Rambert did at the end, volunteering to help Tarrou and Dr. Rieux fight the plague instead of selfishly obsessing about his romantic feelings. But it was about time.

C. "Still, if it was an exile, it was, for most of us, exile in one's own home."


What translation do you have? I have a 1972 paperback translated by Stuart Gilbert. I've read it before and saw the film 1992 film. I haven't yet read it in French. I am rereading it now.

It is an excellent book. Grand may be my favorite character.


My favorite scene is the sermon. One of the ways literature speaks to me (and others, I assume) is in “universal truths” or, I guess less aspirationally, in ways that we can relate. Katrina? God’s punishment. The Pulse shooting? God’s punishment. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? God’s punishment. (on a side note, the wrathful, old testament god was supposedly replaced by the loving new testament god, or so I thought, until convenient to blame any natural or manmade disaster on god’s wrath for sinful humans). Cue here the idea that god killing a bunch of innocent people along with some sinners as some sort of mass retaliation is also considered a war crime in modern times. But the point is, it seems for eternity people want to blame shitty things happening on what some people define as human sin. I’m sure they are out there, but has anyone seen this phenomenon for Covid-19? I’ve seen the Jim Bakker-peddled snake oil cures…

I guess I am not surprised by characters’ actions, so much as along for the ride. It’s an interesting twist and side story with Rambert trying to get smuggled out. Paneloux’s sermon isn’t surprising, it’s in character, but it’s a good bit that I am guessing will be a theme or at least come back a few times – Rieux has already stated that if there were an “all powerful god” he would give up medicine and let everything up to god.

Favorite sentence? I marked a couple, but why not this: "But under the prolonged strain, it seemed that hearts had toughened; people lived beside those groans or walked past them as though they had become the normal speech of men."

One thing I thought might be worth discussion is, as my first answer alludes to, is what is being mirrored now? I have friends who have been stranded in other places, and the long sentence about how people saying goodbye with the expectation of being reunited soon has been replaced by uncertainty and a separation that who knows when will end.


1.I have to agree with you on your favorite scene: here we are finally going to see the great progress made by Grand on his book- and we get the first draft of the first sentence! Aside from the humor of the scene, I also saw a parallel between his obsession here and his account of why his marriage broke up-“a time came when I should have found the words to keep her with me- only I couldn’t.”
2. I found Rambert’s intense dedication to leave town, not to escape plague, but to reunite with his wife surprising- not because it was out of character but because I have not experienced that kind of intense longing to shorten time away from a lover. Of course, then I started feeling cheated in my own relationships 😆
3. I liked this sentence reflecting Rambert’s passion: But at this same moment, now that once more all ways of escape were sealed against him, he felt his longing for her blaze up again, with a violence so sudden, so intense, that he started running to his hotel, as if to escape the burning pain that none the less pervaded him, like wildfire in his blood.


The accompanying photograph is a perfect metaphor for the 1959 Stanley Kramer film, On the Beach. Well done, Christopher.


I just realized I numbered the discussion questions 1, 2, and 3 instead of A, B, and C. I fixed them in the post and in my comment @1.

@3, @4 -- Do you want me to go into your comments and change the numbers 1, 2, and 3, to the letters A, B, and C? I can do that.

@3 -- "One thing I thought might be worth discussion is... is what is being mirrored now?" Good idea. I should have had another question about that. I keep thinking how weirdly grateful I am to have the internet during this 2020 pandemic. All these people in the book who can't send mail, who can't make phone calls because the lines for pay phones are so long, who can't do anything except send telegrams (and then, because of the limited number of words allowed, end up sending only the most generic and upbeat -- and thus wildly inaccurate -- telegrams about how they're doing)? It makes me grateful for social media and FaceTime and blogs like this. It shows me the virtues of the internet, something it was starting to seem like had no virtues. We're all in exile in our own homes, but at least we can reach out to people, at least we can see their faces.


@2 -- I'm also reading the Stuart Gilbert. I'm glad you think it's an excellent book!


@6 The internet is certainly something unlike the setting of the book, although I believe Spain and maybe one other country are stopping or reducing streaming, which is going to make people antsy.

On a forum I participate in the conversations have just turned away from "what are you doing to prepare," "how has it affected you," "what about my job," to predictable conspiracy theories about global domination, "they're coming for our guns!" (there has been a run on guns and ammo along with TP) and other nonsense. I just skyped my mom, going to skype my dad later, and I am talking to friends on social media (and a group chat with five friends last night who had been chatting and drinking for hours). So there is the good with the bad. But as you say in Oran it's telegrams that don't transmit much information...


Wonderful post, Christopher. Thank you. Makes me want to read lots more books with you.
Horse images! I hadn't even noticed. But oh, the poor cat-spitter, devastated by no cats left to spit on...
* What struck me almost immediately was the repeated use of the word 'exile' -- all the more ironic, or deeply felt (or both), from the man who titled his short-story collection 'Exile and the Kingdom.' And then, of course, comes the current gut punch of "It was, for most of us, exile in one's own home."
Paneloux's sermon -- yes, dead-on accurate, the kind of fire-and-brimstone we're-all-sinners we're-all-going-to-hell you-asked for-this crap still spewed from pulpits by the vengefully righteous holier-than-thou.
* But Grand's "first sentence" delighted me. It was so bad! Every iteration of it! Every adverb. Every word. I laughed more each time he 'improved' it. When I taught writing, I'd sometimes scrawl the classic cliche "It was a dark and stormy night" up on the board, and then challenge students to rewrite it, make it interesting, at whatever length they wanted, and wherever it took them. Now I think I'd use Grand's first sentence...


A. Like others, I enjoyed the revelation about Grand's masterpiece. Inside humor about writer's block, revealing a bit about Camus and his own struggles, and helping me appreciate his achievement in finishing his own drafts.

B. Most surprising in this section was finding out what the asthma patient was doing with his two saucepans, "one of which was always full of peas when he woke in the morning. He filled the other, pea by pea, at a constant, carefully regulated speed. Thus time for him was reckoned by these pans."

What a way to pass the time, to pass years of one's life, literally passing one pea after another, from one pan to the other, like meditation beads. A meditation on meditation and on the meaning of life.

C. Too many to choose from!

On living in the moment: "Thus each of us had to be content to live only for the day, alone under the vast indifference of the sky."

On the difficulty of supporting each other emotionally, when we encounter each other in different moods, speaking on different levels (or like in one's feed, the dissonance of scrolling through recipes, cat photos, and death announcements):
"Whether friendly or hostile, the reply always missed fire, and the attempt to communicate had to be given up."

White imperialists/capitalists centering their anxieties as always, ignoring advice from experienced parts of the world and causing as much damage as possible while thinking they're acting with good motives:
"They had camps, you know," he was saying, "for the natives, with tents for the sick ones and a ring of sentries all round. If a member of the family came along and tried to smuggle in one of those damn-fool native remedies, they fired at sight. A bit tough, I grant you, but it was the only thing to do."


Yeah, Gilbert's translation is excellent. I now intend to read The Plague in French as I can read, write and speak French. I love the fact that there is now a run on The Plague by Camus. Glad I have a copy.

BTW, one comment regarding Fr. Paneloux's sermon and the character himself. Note that the "fire & brimstone" homily is definitely dated. The novel was written in 1947(?) prior to Vactican II and takes place in a French colonial Church (Algeria, Africa). That's not to say priests or protestant clergymen or even rabbis or imans wouldn't utter "fire & brimstone" sermons or speeches then and blame and punish the sinner with God's wrath, a plague. However, I'm exceedingly dubious that ANY clergy person today would excoriate their flock via a sermon during a most calamitous time (a pestilence) for that population. Granted, churches, temples and mosques are now closed. Still, all are available electronically for support at this most treacherous time. I just think that Fr. Paneloux is from another era.

As I recall, Camus at this time was at least agnostic regarding religion and was a Leftist politically, especially during WWII. So, he might have had an anti-clerical bent when writing the novel. He eventually became disillusioned with the Left because of Stalin and drifted rightward before his young death in 1960 at age 47 years in a car accident. He's an extraordinary writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature for a reason. He's one of my favorites.


A. My favorite moment (& my favorite quote) came at the end of Part 2 when Rieux & Tarrou are hanging out in Rambert’s room listening to “St. James Infirmary” (it may have been his only record, but it sure as shit was the right record).
The conversation is concise, but weighty. What is important? What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? And it totally sticks the landing: What is common decency? It’s just “doing my job”.
I grew up with guys like that in the movies. Those Hemingway heroes with their infallible competence who cleaned the Western town of pesky outlaws, waded through a morass of corruption to solve the murder, or led their squad into combat--always quietly and without a lot of fuss.
I really loved those guys.
B. Did not see Tarrou (the guy who “had a habit of observing events and people from the wrong end of a telescope” as a DIY community organizer. I expected that he would continue to float above the action making droll commentaries about the other characters & the surreal events swirling around him.
C.“It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.” Gilbert translates this differently, but I saw this version in the NYT recently & it lit me up. It strikes me as the essence of Camu’s idea of what to do with the problem of absurdity--that cognitive dissonance that we get into when trying to reconcile the human need to make meaning out of our experiences with a universe devoid of meaning.
His conclusion is essentially: “Just get on with life & don’t be a dick”


Hello friends! I'm caught up with the reading and loving these comments. Thanks for adjusting the pace, Chris, as we savor the second half of the novel.

A) My favorite scene is with Grand and his work. While Camus shows us the obsessiveness and absurdity of Grand’s labor, he also allows Grand a measure of dignity so that we can still take him seriously. Perhaps because I’m a writer (and a tad, um, obsessive) I was inclined to interpret it this way, but I thought there was an affection there, a quiet kindness in Camus’ portrayal of Grand. I think Camus comes back to this again at the end of Part Two. Rambert says, “…it [plague] means exactly that – the same thing over and over again,” and certainly Grand is going round and round. We also recognize him as someone willing to die for an idea (or at least, to grow very, very old with it). Grand says, “Happily, I’ve my work,” and that is his form of survival, and of doing what he can to drown out the "eerie whistling" in the streets below.
B) I wasn’t expecting Tarrou to become a community organizer!
C) “And all the hideous fears which stamp their faces in the daytime are transformed in the fiery, dusty nightfall into a sort of hectic exaltation, an unkempt freedom fevering their blood.”

Being mirrored right now: There are so many moments in Part Two, but one that sticks with me is when Grand is telling Rieux that he will make something of his MS, then adds, “When all this is over.” How many of us are thinking of what we will do “when all this is over”? Of how we will do things differently, of goals we will pursue, of new habits we’ll devote ourselves to? How many of us believe it when we say/think those things?

Something about me, though not nearly as mystical as a religious experience on the beach: Like Grand, I'm trying to keep track of "what is happening" at this moment, in a simple composition book. Yesterday our governor (in MA) had to extend the statewide school closure until May 4, and I don't want that kind of information to become so normal that I don't even notice it anymore. So this sentence, "Patiently every evening he brought his totals up to date, illustrated them with graphs, and racked his brains to present his data in the most exact, clearest form" - that's me every night at the kitchen table, recording the cases and fatalities in hand-drawn graphics, trying to be clear, trying to make sense of it all.


@11 Although Vatican II made some liberalizing changes to the church, not everyone was on board (Opus Dei, e.g., but also churches in far-flung places were free to ignore or pick and choose from the reforms). I was thinking more of protestant (baptist, most often, I am guessing) fire and brimstone and, for example, blaming "the gays" in New Orleans for Katrina. But there are also catholic priests blaming C19 on "the gays" these days: https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/coronavirus/bishop-blames-sexual-diversity-abortion-for-coronavirus/. That's here in Mexico. Camus certainly seems to have an anti-clerical or anti-religous bent here -- how can one read the sermon without thinking "what an asshole!" -- unless one believes in that kind of thing, I suppose. Rieux's comment about giving up medicine if there was an all powerful god reinforces this.

@12 Was psyched to see that song in the novel, but was thinking "he's gotta buy some more records!"

@13 Interesting to think of if or how things will be different post-C19. My dad is a retired engineer for Boeing, and he is constantly making spreadsheets. C19 is his latest fodder as well.


Agree. I reread the sermon and thought more of the late Jerry Falwell than a French Roman Catholic priest in Algeria. When one thinks of "fire & brimstone" sermons, one thinks of reactionary American Southern Baptist preachers. I vaguely recall Rev. Falwell blaming the AIDS crisis on sexual practices of gay men.

But, I like Dr. Rieux. I think of him as less anti-religious, just more pro-medicine. Especially considering the plague.


Thanks for setting up this reading club!

I'm reading The Plague both in French and in English as a way to improve my French. I start off with the French and then switch to English as my attention or understanding wanes. So I'm not unlike Rieux's asthmatic patient, passing peas back and forth in a pot all day long.

To answer your question, Camus uses the word "une amazone" for horsewoman. Grand's first version of the sentence reads "Par une belle matinée du mois de mai, une élégante amazone parcourait, sur une superbe jument alezane, les allées fleuries du bois de Boulogne."


So I'm doing C first; there was a line that really struck a chord with me. When Rambert was initially trying to find an out through the city officials:

"That, in fact, was what struck one most—the excellence of their intentions. But as regards plague their competence was practically nil."

I feel this is all of us right now. All of us that like to read things and come to conclusions and spin ideas out of data from every vector. I've built a career out of hard work, flexibility and an ability to sponge up information, and there are a million others like me out there in this town. We're all plague experts at this point and we all have the greatest of intentions. Except that none of us really know how this is going to end.

B & C: Rambert really surprised me with his U turn on being a helper. The scene where he realised that by throwing himself into something he had stopped feeling the pain of separation and then promptly felt it ever more keenly; up to that point I'd thought him a bit of a fool but then I felt for him keenly. From that moment it was inevitable for him to sign up to help.


(A) It's just a tiny scene, but my favorite is the bar scene (153-54). You can feel the clamor and conversations and booze-fueled camaraderie. Rambert elbows others out of the way, so you know there's no social distancing to be found there.

More of a "personal element" than a story -- I've always done my best thinking with some bar noise in the background. (There's a YouTube thing called City Sounds: Busy Bar at Night that I flip on occasionally during the lockdown, that provides a taste of that ambiance anyway.) I used to do homework in bars in college and grad school, and now I'll frequently write there -- not like the packed, narrow hotel bar Rambert led them to, but a place where conversations and a little bit of din are filling the air.

I'm quite jealous of their open bars and cafes, though suspicious of what that will mean for the plague's spread. Here, there's little ambient city life to hear now (other than the damn leaf blower next door, every Friday morning). There's ambient nature noise coming through much more, which is nice but different. I'm curious how we'll respond when the city comes alive again -- what will the adjustment be like?

(B) Rieux's actions are most surprising. He above anyone else knows the gravity of spreading the plague beyond the city's walls, but never takes an opportunity to talk Rambert out of leaving. They share the experience of being far away from their love, so perhaps that's driving his view; but I'd expect more ambivalence on his part to spill out onto the page.

I found this section much slower to get through -- indeed, a slog (har dee har) -- in comparison to the first section. There weren't nearly as many gems, and the flow of the book matched the characters, who seemed to be navel-gazing or talking themselves in circles. An apt summary: "[T]hey drifted through life rather than lived, the prey of aimless days and sterile memories" (73). I suppose that's par for the course in quarantine -- I'm starting to feel pretty sloggish myself.

(C) "Thus the only way of escaping from that intolerable leisure was to set the trains running again in one's imagination and in filling the silence with the fancied tinkle of a doorbell, in practice obstinately mute" (73).

And related: "Thus each of us had to be content to live only for the day, alone under the vast indifference of the sky" (75).


And now for response time ...

@3 -- Great sentence you plucked! Very vivid.

@4 -- Ha! Love this characterization of Grand's big reveal. And great observation on the parallel to his failed relationship. I hadn't noticed that, but so true.

@6 -- There is much I'm hating about the internet that's magnified in lockdown. (I don't know how many people I've "snoozed" on facebook this week, for example; and the crisis is really showing the imminent danger of a fully dysfunctional federal executive branch.) But for connectivity with chosen individuals and groups, I fully agree -- it's a lifeline. It's curious that in the book they can move about so freely with each other (cafes, bars, etc.), but are cut off from the outside world. Here, we have something of the opposite (other than physically leaving the country, which most of us don't do that often anyway).

@9 -- I would love to see the results of that exercise! (Both the dark and stormy night and Grand's sentence, actually. I'm sure the original assignment produced quite a spectrum of results, too.)


@ 10 -- Oh my god, I totally forgot about the peas! I meant to write something about the peas in my post. We're all doing that, huh? Playing weird little games with the objects in our house to pass the time? Plus I just love peas. As a little kid, when asked what my favorite vegetable was, I would say, "Peas." I remember when I first moved to Seattle and was living on my own, I was so excited because I could eat WHATEVER I wanted for dinner, and one of my first meals was a bowl of peas. That's it. A bowl of peas is not, by itself, it turned out, a good dinner.

@11 -- I'm glad to hear you say it's an excellent translation, but I wonder if that judgment will hold as you dive into the French version. I don't know a lick of French, so I wouldn't know, but a very wise literary friend of mine said over email the other day: "I don't like the translation by Stuart Gilbert, who has turned the whole book into an English so stilted that one can't imagine Camus writing it." This friend of mine believes strongly there should be a new translation.

@16 -- You say you are already reading it in both French and English (I am in awe of you). So I'm wondering: do you think Gilbert accurately captures Camus's literary style?


Hi/ This section really started to capture my mood -- and perhaps our city's collective mood -- much more than Part One. I definitely identified with the ennui, the sense of feeling closed in at the same time as being cut off, and the dreadful uncertainty as we march into the unknown. Quite jealous of the exiles (on many levels, physically, mentally) being able to hang in cafes and bars though! The social distancer in me simultaneously cringed and yearned.

A. My favorite scene was when the older guy with asthma sat counting his peas. It's an indelible image, beautifully capturing the methodical march of time and age and boredom. I initially did enjoy a scene that many of you have already mentioned -- the one about Grand toiling away on the first sentence of his opus -- but the sentence was repeated so much that the gag wore off for me. I also really liked the description of bureaucracy

B. I found Rambert's decision to remain and help out the most surprising. I found his yearning to be with his wife/lover (which?) very moving (and relatable!) and cheered him on as he explored every lead in order to escape. And then! He didn't. Maybe I was too caught up in his quest, but I really didn't understand why he would give up so easily. It seemed like he wanted to leave more than anything.

C. It's hard to pin down just one quote that was my favorite, so here are a shmattering:
"the plague forced inactivity on them, limiting their movements to the same dull round inside the town, and throwing them, day after day, on the illusive solace of their memories"

"public welfare is merely the sum total of the private welfares of each of us"

"he had obtained much insight into the inner workings of a municipal office... by dint of entering offices where human faces were as blank as the filing-cabinets and the dusty records on the shelves behind them"

"It is forbidden to spit on cats in plague-time"

Finally, Christopher, good one on noting all of the animal imagery! A reference to the disease vectors? to our commonality with other species? to being reduced to the basics of animal life (survival)? Or, maybe it means nothing and is just great description.


@21 "It seemed like he wanted to leave more than anything."

Yes. Maybe the reality of possibly spreading the plague to his friends and his beloved (and to the rest of the world) kicked in? Maybe he became fearful about spending the rest of his life feeling he failed a moral test and regretting his departure?

Or (more cynically) maybe he realized that it was going to cost a lot of cash to find out if the officials had set up another perimeter of guards who would return him to Oran?

That was suggested earlier:
"there was no time to lose; there had been talk about setting up duplicate sentry posts a little farther out."


You pose a good question. I, too wonder if there are any other English translations. There must be. Gilbert's is quite far along, 50 years ago? Whatever, I just love it. In Part II, the exchange between Rieux and Tarrou was priceless. Each trying to get the upper rhetorical hand. "You never answered my question."

And then there is Grand, Rieux and Tarrou a mist plague discussing the first line of Grand's novel. "A black sorrel mare", "It won't do" Rieux said "Why not?" "Because 'sorrel' doesn't mean a breed of horse; it's a color."



@20 and @23, I too was wondering if there is another English translation. I'm reading the Gilbert translation, 15th printing from 1966. To my abilities in reading French I'd say the translation into English isn't bad (I definitely could not do better) but some of the word choice in English seems dated.

Here's a random question for any experts: I've heard that Camus is sometimes thought of as an existentialist and absurdist (I took that last one straight from Wikipedia). Can anyone point me to any passages in the novel that illustrate this?


A) My favorite scene is more of a moment, when Rieux listens to the radio and hears, “Oran, we’re with you!” The global impact of our current reality has been one of the most wild parts of this moment in history - in my life, I’ve not witnessed a truly shared universal experience (I’ve always imagined the world would shatter collectively if Beyoncé died suddenly). Oran is isolated, kept behind a literal gate. The radio message reminds me of Reddit posts during natural disasters, real Hands Across America shit whose intentions are sincere, but whose brand of sincerity makes for a weak bridge in times of crisis and pain. Similar to the messages now, “We’re in this together,” a platitude so absurd and obtuse, but also, technically accurate. Oran is like the room behind the door in 28 Days Later: DON’T OPEN DEAD INSIDE... How lonely! How bleak!

B) Not a hot take, but Rieux‘s mom - literally forgot she was there. Also? Maybe not surprised but more irritated, why is Rieux so interested in, and seemingly supportive of, Rambert the Fuck Boi’s “great escape?” Not interested in that story line anymore.

C) “‘But’ — Tarrou smiled — ‘do try at least not to propagate the microbe deliberately.’” What a delicious, weird ask. I relish this and the shade he throws with it. I’m going to say this to my partner the next time he goes for a walk or runs to the metal mart to buy me a box of wine.


Well, since you ask, I've been relating awkwardly to Grand with a writing project I started a month ago, although I did make it past the first sentence. Getting along happily, happily, in spite of plague, because I've my work! Early-february I started on this post-apocalyptic narrative where a lady dodges death and holes up in a nook in the seattle underground to read books while the city collapses on top of her. It feels oddly prescient now!

A. Favorite moment: Grand sharing that he hopes the publishers will say, 'Gentlemen, hat's off!' And Rieux is dumbfounded, suspects that publishers don't even wear hats in the office, but chooses not to say anything.

B. I was surprised with Rambert for offering to help. I'd taken him to be more self-absorbed up to that point.

C. "And from the ends of the earth, across thousands of miles of land and sea, kindly, well-meaning speakers tried to voice their fellow-feeling, and indeed did so, but at the same time proved the utter incapacity of every man truly to share in suffering that he cannot see."


Hi Christopher,

Great observations about all the animal references, especially horses! In the original French version, the great fiction-writing scene says "one amazone." I see two definitions for "amazone" 1) woman from the Amazon or 2) a horsewoman. Why the translators chose the latter is beyond me. I probably would've gone with "woman from the Amazon" because that is equally absurd, and less redundant because we already see that she's getting on a horse.

A couple of favorite quotes (they might be better in French): 1) "In short, we returned to our prison-house, we had nothing left us but the past, and even if some were tempted to live in the future, they had speedily to abandon the idea--anyhow, as soon as could be--once they felt the wounds that the imagination inflicts on those who yield themselves to it." 2) "But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that or an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill."


The book and reality in Seattle have diverged in a curious way. Though in the book there is a general understanding of how disease spreads, there seems to be little attempt at social isolation, people are still going to restaurants, etc., even though they are months into the plague.

I will be interested in hearing people’s reactions to all of the sermon’s and how they relate to Camus’ world view. (I am close to the original reading schedule.)


Aren't the dogs and cats being killed because the plague is spread by fleas?


I just finished the book. By golly, it was awesome. Just extraordinary and prescient. It was my second perusal. Read it in a week. Next time, I will read it in French. I did view the film and it was good but a very different narrative. It is set in Argentina in the early 90s, Rambert is a beautiful female French TV reporter, Fr. Paneloux is treated differently and Cottard is very exploitative. Recommended with reservations. The DVD is hard to come by.

@ 27, I too, wondered how "horsewoman" would be translated. Thanks. 'Amazone' eh? Wow, that just connotes all sorts of things now. I won't say too much more until you finish Part 3. BTW, it was very dark.


Late to the comments on Part 2, but I finished reading the book, largely so I could move on to something less topical and more escapist. (Agatha Christie, good old-fashioned murders!)

A. The scene in which Grand revealed his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sentence was one of my favorites as well. His optimism that he would be able to someday render it to “Hats off!” perfection was endearing, as was Rieux’s response that it had “whetted his curiosity.”

B. Rambert’s decision to stay and help was a pleasant surprise. I really didn’t think he had it in him (I also found it rather odd that, as a journalist, he didn’t exhibit any desire or effort to chronicle the continuing crisis, if only to share it with the outside world after-the-fact.)

C. Favorite sentence, in part because of the tangent on which it sent my mind: “Thus each of us had to be content to live only for the day, alone under the vast indifference of the sky.”

There’s a “big sky” meditation in which you’re encouraged to think of your thoughts as clouds in a vast sky. The clouds (thoughts) come and go (impermanence), but behind/beyond them is always the sky.

Camus turned that Buddhist concept a bit sideways for me, because it hit me that one could think of people/the plague’s victims as the passing clouds in the vast sky of humanity.