Tag Archives: Albert Camus

Truth in a story of plague.

Only a few days ago I read, hastily as it turns out, a post on Fraise that got my attention because of what Mags wrote about Albert Camus:

Sartre accused Camus of expelling Christ from the front door of the house, only to let him in at the back. I think this sums up Camus’ respect for people of faith. But then Camus just respects all people, all the time, with all love and compassion. He certainly captures all the stages of illness and its accompanying fear that we’re experiencing now.

I don’t think I’d read any Camus since college, and maybe all I’d read was in high school French class, in French, which would mean I’d understood little at any level. But this made me want to read Camus for real. I continued in her post to read about Cyrano, and until this morning forgot that she was mentioning Camus because she had recently re-read his novel The Plague (La Peste – she read it in French.) Mostly what I retained was the phrase “love and compassion.”

Soon afterward I saw on Rod Dreher’s blog that he is hosting a sort of book club to read The Plague! So naturally I hopped on. I’ve been listening to the audio version while I wait for a used paperback to arrive. Dreher hopes to complete his website discussion within two weeks, so I may have to read everyone’s comments on his page later. I know I won’t go that fast. I have to work this book into my other Lenten reading, which is an unusual compendium this year!

I ran into my dear homeschooling friend Debbie in the store and told her I was starting The Plague; she laughed her delightful laugh and said, “Oh, Gretchen, you are reading that right now??”

Well, why not get some perspective on the current news? It has been very thought-provoking already, not far into the story, to compare the world today to that in which the story’s characters live and move. Camus in the first pages uses the word “modern” several times in describing them, and makes me curious to see how their story develops, and how their response to their epidemic might compare to that of us who are called “post-modern.”

One of the things that occurred to me immediately is something very much from the surface of the story, that our current “plague” is much nicer than the one whose graphically described, horrific symptoms spread through the town of Oran. I was a little worried about listening too close to bedtime, to the account of the rats coming into the streets to die their bloody deaths.

Please comment, if any of you have thought about this novel or have read it recently. (If you  have, you probably want to visit Dreher’s blog to see what goes on there.) I already noticed a few lines that I’d like to muse on when I have the print copy and can look longer at them. But until then, here is an idea I’ve thought about for a long time, but didn’t remember that the quote was from Albert Camus:

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”

Leaves and flowers before the rain.

gl-2016-10-24-09-38-16My early walk was so variously interesting and nourishing, I thought it alone would have taken all morning. First thing, down by the creek I got the briefest glimpse of a strange bird, not a jay but with blue around its head somewhere, and I heard its call, but it always flew through the trees just out of sight.

The skies were cloudy, my house was chilled, but the air outdoors was gentler than is typical for these parts, and all the deciduous trees made their own light against the dark background. It was natural to be looking up, and to notice the music of bird conversations. I was made aware today of how wild birds live their own separate existence, so mysterious and otherworldly. When one is caught in a camera lens or is slowed down by an injury, making it possible for me to draw a little closer and examine the feathers or the colors, or to look in the bright eyes, the only reasonable response is reverence.

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And yet, the creatures are everywhere. It is estimated that there are 10,000 bird species and 200 – 400 billion individual birds in the world. Most of the free ones seem always to be just beyond reach, airy and on the move. Egrets at least will stand still long enough to be stared at. This morning a human mom, her baby in a stroller, was looking over the bridge, and when I asked her if she’d seen any waterfowl, told me about two egrets down by the next bridge. I went there, but they were gone.

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What I did see was a turkey vulture! Normally I think they are repulsive, but that may be because they are circling a dead something on the ground, or eating carrion on the highway. When I saw this one sitting on the bank of the creek, all parts but his head looked almost pretty. He was so slow and still, I think he might have been sick or injured. When I came closer he flew clumsily on to a nearby branch.

A breeze was coming up — rain was on its way. Some of the leaves were hard to capture with my camera as they fluttered and waved around, and I thought it amusing that I was so determined to take more Autumn Color pictures. It seemed that just a couple of days ago I was thinking that I was tired of them. It is true, this saying of G.K. Chesterton: “There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.” Today, I was keen on leaves.

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“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
― Albert Camus

My plan was, when I came homegl-yarrow-lavender-10-24-16, to finish cleaning up the yard before the rain came and made that kind of work more tedious. For some reason two of my lavender bushes are still blooming, but as even they are at the end of the season, I began to prune them back, and then I realized I could bring the cuttings into the house for a dry bouquet. And why not add some yarrow blooms; they are untiring in their production of yellow flowers.

The basil that was spindly and reluctant all summer has beefed up and made something of itself in the last weeks, so I cut all of it and thought I would make a batch of pesto.

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And why not bake a cake? Housemate Kit was due to return home today after several months in Guatemala on a missions trip, and wouldn’t she like a cake when she came in from driving through the rain for hours? I’ll tell you more about the cake in another post, but let me just say that it had chocolate in it, and what with all the sampling of 60% cacao chips, and licking of batter and tasting of crumbs, I was getting plenty of caffeine to excite my brain for hours to come – like now.

When I was thick in the business of messing up the whole kitchen with flour, flowers, and cake crumbs, I got the news that some cousins I had expected tomorrow  were also driving down through the storm and arriving this evening instead, and would take me out to dinner.

So the rain came drizzling as I was baking; then sprinkling while I washed the dishes; and by dinnertime it was pouring very encouragingly. After Chinese dinner we came home and Kit had arrived – we all ate cake together, and put the basil in the fridge for tomorrow.

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