Descartes says “I think, therefore I am”, Camus says “I resist, therefore we are.”

In order to aid our discussion about Camus work “The Plague”, I decided to choose article by VOX – “What Camus’s The Plague can teach us about the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Tap, tap, tap!

Honestly, the article is great and all, but the reason why I chose it, lies solely on the phrase that you can see as the title of my post.

“I resist, therefore we are.”

Such a short phrase that has so much meaning (at least for me it does). Not only it connects some of the major themes of the novel – interdependence within the society, as well as individual identity being crushed by the collective, it quite possibly can pass of as a motto of the narrator of the story – Bernard Rieux.

The character of Bernard is probably one that is (for me) the most empathetic and strongest out of all. The reason being is the power I see in silence and his attempts to remain strong throughout the exhausting plague outbreak. This is ironic I guess, because his approach is (or at least supposed to be) very clinical, which means more on the dry side when it comes to things like descriptions, emotions, feelings, sufferings. However, I feel like the reader can’t help but feel great amount of strength behind Rieux’s attempts to fight through a plague by living in the world of abstractions. His coping mechanism of trying to dissociate and focus on routines (shout out to Severance, whats up, i swear i talk like this, not a thug) and “getting things done” without any hope for the future astonished me.

One of the episodes that hit close to heart were when Tarrou died.

“But what about isolating me, Rieux?”

“It’s by no means certain that you have plague.”

Tarrou smiled with an effort. “Well, it’s the first time I’ve known you to do the injection without ordering the patient off to the isolation ward.”

Rieux looked away.

This quote… THIS quote. I felt my heart flip over, go jump off the cliff, climb up again and fly to the sky. Its such a simple thing of how Rieux looked away, but seeing him maintaining his composure throughout the novel and never letting ANYONE take any risks by putting caution above all and then this…

Reading these lines is one the greatest moments of the story. The wall Rieux build around his heart has an opening made by Tarrou. This man that wouldn’t budge for anyone when it came to his duties and obligations, but for the first time ever, is seen vulnerable and so sensitive, without all the abstractions used to escape and survive.

We all have this person in our life who is so principled that you can never catch them breaking those, but when they do, it means so much. It shows that the situation and person are special. It creates so much meaning and intimacy. It is special. Very special.

And because this scene translates a very dear moment in life for me, that’s what Camus “The Plague” has taught me about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bernard is the best.

I rest my case.

1 Comment

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  1. I loved this post, Taman, and so glad you pointed us toward that podcast. It’s the one I wanted to send to the class but not until now because of the spoilers. And I blew that anyway. I thought it was a great conversation. And you’re right — it’s a great moment for Rieux. For a character established on his capacity to observe, what does it mean that the most telling moment is the one when he looks away?

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