I “remember” the book being about a town infected with bubonic plague (it is), but that the setting was in the Middle Ages (it’s most decidedly not). In fact, it’s set in the 1940s in French Algeria. How I misremembered that basic setting detail is beyond me. Did I confuse it with the setting of The Name of the Rose, which I read back in those days? Or something else? Who knows?
But more importantly, I “remembered” it as being profoundly moving and emotional, and reading it now, I find it’s exactly the opposite of emotional. It’s Camus laying out his philosophy of the absurd and how we have to push through absurd challenges rather than succumb to them. But there is clearly a more philosophical atmosphere throughout the novel, not at all like I remember it.
What I did enjoy this time through, though, is how it addresses Camus’s idea of the absurd on the community level, rather than on the level of the individual, as he does in his first (and more famous) novel, The Stranger, which I read last year. How the townspeople react and adapt to their exile in Oran is really what The Plague is about, and in that regard, I prefer it to The Stranger.
But now I wonder what wonderful books I read many years ago that I am completely misremembering? I can’t live long enough to reread them all now, not if I hope to keep reading the many new books on offer each year. Gasp, is it possible that I could reread On the Road and like it now? Nope. It’s not even getting another chance.