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Albert Camus

Plague and Terror, Priest and Atheist

John Robert Maze

This book provides a depth-psychological, analytic reading of all Albert Camus’s imaginative literary works including his essays and reminiscences. The chronological procedure reveals an evolution of unconscious themes underlying the conscious views and attitudes to which Camus kept returning over the course of his life. Topics discussed in this study include the analysis of Camus’s rejection of morality as the enemy of affection and self-fulfilment; his atheism; the apparent qualifications in his opposition to terrorism; and his absolute rejection of the death penalty as an instrument of state terrorism. This group of attitudes is located in the Camus family nexus, both in their external and historical reference and in their emerging internal conscious and unconscious meanings, enriched by autobiographical references in the novels to Camus’s adult character and personal and political life experiences.


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4. The Plague – Internal Corruption 53


53 CHAPTER 4 The Plague – Internal Corruption Very soon after the appearance of The Plague (La Peste), one of Camus’s most important works, Roland Barthes reviewed it in terms that Camus thought imperceptive. Barthes’s main critical point was that Camus seemed to situate his thinking ‘outside history’ – neglecting historical process. Camus wrote an open letter in reply to Barthes. The interest of this lies in the way Camus describes his own work. He says he wanted The Plague ‘to be read on a number of levels.’1 That certainly has been the case; different layers of meaning can be distinguished without necessarily contradicting one another. The book, he says, ‘has as its obvious content the struggle of the European resistance movements against Nazism’ (ibid.). To this reader, at least, it could also be seen within that broad historical con- text as an allegory for the occupation of Paris by the Nazi forces, if only because Oran is pictured as a closed, terrorised city from which it is impossible to escape. Second, he says: Compared to The Outsider, The Plague does represent […] the movement from an attitude of solitary revolt to the recognition of a community whose struggles must be shared. If there is an evolution from The Outsider to The Plague, it is towards solidarity and participation (ibid.). Third, there is the pervasive theme of separation from loved ones and allies, and its deep psychological effects. 1 Letter to Roland Barthes on The Plague. In Albert Camus: Selected Essays and Notebooks....

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