As we continue living in isolation, the words of Albert Camus in The Plague keep coming back to me. It was published in 1947, yet it captures the mood we are in today so well. I guess plagues and pandemics affect people in the same way, no matter what era we live in. Here are some excerpts and I replace the words ‘plague’ with ‘coronavirus’ and ‘pestilence’ with ‘pandemic’ to make it feel more current:
- Public opinion is sacred: no panic, above all no panic
- Pandemics are in fact very common, but we find it hard to believe in pandemics when they descend upon us. There have been as many pandemics in the world as there have been wars, yet pandemics and wars always find people equally unprepared.
- A pandemic does have human dimensions, so people tell themselves that is unreal, that it is a bad dream which will end. But it does not always end and, from one bad dream to the next, it is people who end.
- They continued with business, with making arrangements and holding opinions. Why should they have thought about the coronavirus, which negates the future, negates journeys and debates? They considered themselves free and no one will ever be free as long as there is coronavirus, pandemics and famine.
- Impatient with the present, hostile to the past and deprived of a future, we really did resemble those who justice and human hatred has forced to live behind bars.
- No one yet had really accepted the idea of the disease. Most were chiefly affected by whatever upset their habits or touched on their interests.
- For them the pandemic was only an unpleasant visitor which would leave one day as it had entered…the time had yet to come when …they would forget the existence that they had led in the days before.
- He went to see people whose competence one did not usually question. But, in the circumstances, this competence was useless to them…they were men who had precise notions about everything to do with banking, or exports..not to mention excellent qualifications. But when it came to the coronavirus, their knowledge was more or less nil.
- The turning point in the epidemic was marked by the radio no longer announcing some hundreds of deaths per week, but 92, 107 and 120 deaths a day.
- At that moment, in the middle of August, the coronavirus had covered everything. There were no longer any individual destinies, but a collective history that was the coronavirus, and feelings shared by all.
- The great, fierce surge of feeling of the first few weeks had given way to a dejection.
- The coronavirus had suppressed value judgments. This could be seen in the way that no one cared any longer about the quality of the clothes or the food that they bought. Everything was accepted as it came
- The ending of the epidemic became the object of everyone’s hopes. So various prophecies by wise men were passed from hand to hand…some predictions were based on bizarre calculations involving the number of the year, the number of deaths and the number of months already spent under the plague.
- What do you call a return to normal life? ‘New films in the cinema’
- He had changed, the coronavirus had introduced into him a detachment that he tried with all his strength to deny, but which none the less endured in him like a dull pain.
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