the plague (excerpted)

albert camus, 1947

Stupidity has a knack of getting its way.

Query: How to contrive not to waste one's time? Answer: By being fully aware of it all the while. Ways in which this can be done: By spending one's days on an uneasy chair in a dentist's waiting room; by remaining on one's balcony all a Sunday afternoon; by travelling by the longest and least-convenient train routes, and of course standing all the way; by queueing at the box-office of theatres and then not booking a seat.

Can one be a saint if God does not exist? That is the only concrete problem I know of today.

Men and women consume one another rapidly in what is called "the act of love" or else settle down to a mild habit of conjugality. We seldom find a mean between these two extremes.

Since the order of world is regulated by death, perhaps is it better for God we do not believe in him and we fight with all our might against death, without raising our eyes heavenward where he keeps silent.

The important thing isn't the soundness or otherwise of the argument, but for it to make you think.

We tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away.

Thus, too, they came to know the incorrigible sorrow of all prisoners and exiles, which is to live in company with a memory that serves no purpose... Hostile to the past, impatient of the present, and cheated of the future, we were much like those whom men's justice, or hatred, forces to live behind prison bars.

You can't understand. You're using the language of reason, not of the heart; you live in a world of abstractions.

It is in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth--in other words, to silence.

The habit of despair is worse than despair itself.

Nobody is capable of really thinking about anyone, even in the worst calamity.

The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness.

There always comes a time in history when the person who dares to say that 2+2=4 is punished by death. And the issue is not what reward or what punishment will be the outcome of that reasoning. The issue is simply whether or not 2+2=4.

Death means nothing to men like me. It's the event that proves them right.

Once the faintest stirring of hope became possible, the dominion of the plague was ended.

What we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

What's true of all the evils in the world is ... it helps men to rise above themselves.