Although The Plague is a narrative centred around an epidemic, there are many things that make it different from what we have read so far: modernity. While previous texts focused on the breaking of interpersonal relationships and seclusion from the world, The Plague brings forth the governmental and logistical point of view by adding bureaucracy. The novel shows meetings and discussions with the Prefect, as well as having characters refer to the Prefect’s decisions as a leading force of quarantine and delay. There are not a lot of medical descriptions of the plague in the book, though there is a lot of time dedicated to talking about life in an infected city and the logistical problems and nonsensical restrictions taken by the government.
The description of society and the epidemic in The Plague reminded me of kaiju films, a mostly Japanese genre of cinema characterized by the presence of large monsters —kaiju— and their interference in human life. A prime example of this genre is Toho’s Godzilla (Gojira in the original). I believe there are similarities to be found between the epidemic narrative and the kaiju genre, since both talk about the survival of large groups of people when threatened by a force of nature outside human control. Reading through the bureaucratic parts of The Plague, however, I was particularly reminded of Shin Godzilla (sometimes called Godzilla Resurgence), Toho’s 2016 rebooting of Godzilla.
Shin Godzilla is a strange example of a kaiju movie. Godzilla has limited screen time and there is no individual main character tracked in the movie. Quite the opposite: the movie tracks government officials as they struggle with the bureaucracy of an event so unexpected it breaks protocol. Most of the key scenes in the movie consist of meetings, reunions, and people talking through the best solutions to a problem.
Moments like these in The Plague highlight a pushback to action: nothing can be done unless there is a general consensus that something must be done; and this delay in reaching a consensus takes time that could be used to prevent the spread of disease (or the destruction of a kaiju).