The Plague – Albert Camus
He tried to recall what he had read about the disease. Figures floated across his memory, and he recalled that some thirty or so great plagues known to history had accounted for nearly a hundred million deaths. But what are a hundred million deaths? When one has served in a war, one hardly knows what a dead man is, after a while. And since a dead man has no substance unless one has actually seen him dead, a hundred million corpses broadcast through history are no more than a puff of smoke in the imagination. (p. 35).
“No,” Rambert said bitterly, “you can’t understand. You’re using the language of reason, not of the heart; you live in a world of abstractions.” (p. 79).
“After all,” the doctor repeated, then hesitated again, fixing his eyes on Tarrou, “it’s something that a man of your sort can understand most likely, but, since the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn’t it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all our might against death, without raising our eyes toward the heaven where He sits in silence.”
“Yes. But your victories will never be lasting, that’s all.”
Rieux’s face darkened.
“Yes, I know that. But it’s no reason for giving up the struggle.”
“No reason, I agree. Only, I now can picture what this plague must mean for you.”
“Yes, A never ending defeat.”
Tarrou stared at the doctor for a moment, then turned and tramped heavily toward the door. Rieux followed him and was almost at his side when Tarrou, who was staring at the floor, suddenly said:
“Who taught you all this, doctor?”
The reply came promptly: “Suffering.” (p. 117-118).
As a sort of postscript – and, in fact, it is here that Tarrou’s diary ends – he noted that there is always a certain hour of the day and of the night when a man’s courage is at its lowest ebb, and it was that hour only that he feared. (p. 252).
. . . that Dr. Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise. (p. 278).