The Plague and the Cholera

by | 26 Apr 2020 | Art – Literature

I must confess that I find it difficult to find the words to say how we feel in the face of this pandemic.

What references should we hang on to?

Fortunately, the literature is there, which helps us to see more clearly: without it, how could we calmly live this event that has arisen in our lives without warning?

Farther from us, there is first A Journal of the Plague Year, published in 1722, where Daniel Delfoe is inspired by the great epidemic of bubonic plague which ravaged London in 1665. Helping himself perhaps of his memories but especially bringing together with a real scientific rigor testimonies and documents, he does a real work of clinician, including with a sociological perspective: as there is a society of crime, there is a society of the Plague !

After, of course, with this brand new look linked to what we are going through, we have to read The Plague again.

This novel, I had read it the first time before my French baccalaureate … to finally draw lots from it an extract on D-Day … Poor Camus! And poor examiner! Without remembering precisely my oral, I am ashamed in retrospective of what I said that day …

Rereading it a few years ago, I of course understood better the metaphor of Nazism, widely commented on when the novel came out in 1947. I have also written here a column influenced by this way to read it.

But I must admit that its rediscovery today is much more disturbing, with all these striking similarities with the current situation. And then in the meantime, Camus became my friend, since I met The First Man … and his Algeria!

This weekend, I set my sights on The Horseman on the Roof: between plague and cholera, how to choose? …

“Giono’s masterpiece” says the back cover … A Stendhal hero, Angelo Pardi, whom Giono describes as “noble, generous, pure, naive and healthy” … the cards in his game to face misfortune, in this case the cholera of 1838 ravaging Haute-Provence. The young man constantly confronts his qualities and his passion with the passion of others, in reality pure egoism …

“The birds were waking up in the valley where he descended” … wonderful Angelo!

I have not found Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez: it will be after the confinement!

Iconography: Le Hussard sur le toit … to read in a garden or with the window open, in this dear 1951 Gallimard edition … (personal collection)