Plague and Terror, Priest and Atheist
7 Preface A committed atheist who, like Albert Camus, believed there is no after-life, that life ends completely, might be expected to hold there were no further questions to solve about the idea of death. Yet his novels are permeated by thoughts about death from beginning to end. His first-written though posthumously published novel was A Happy Death, about the thoughts of a young man faced with the immi- nent likelihood of dying of tuberculosis, as Camus himself was. His preferred solution was to be as happy as one could manage while alive, and expect after that to be like a stone warmed by the sun and cooled by the rain. Of course he will not be able to feel those sensations. The anti-hero of The Outsider goes to the guillotine hoping that the spectators, whom he already despises, will greet him with cries of hatred. The Plague of course is all about death and the problem of why a benevolent and omnipotent deity allows it to strike down guilty and innocent alike. The cynical, self-doubting, self-appointed judge narrating The Fall suspects he would fail any second chance to rescue a drowning woman. It would be too much trouble for too little gain. Lastly, in The First Man Camus seems in imagination to have endowed himself with immortality, in the self-creating role of wish- fully being his own father. I extend thanks to as many as possible of the people who have kindly welcomed and commented on readings of the...
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