IAP A4: assignment revised

Intimations of a pandemic

“We’ve other things to think about, what with this fever everybody’s talking of.”

That evening a neighbour started running a high fever accompanied by delirium. One of the pustules was beginning to suppurate, and presently split open like an overripe fruit.

Obviously the abscesses had to be lanced. Two crisscross strokes, and the ganglion disgorged a mixture of blood and pus.

The local press, so lavish of news about the rats, now had nothing to say. For rats died in the street; men in their homes. And newspapers are concerned only with the street.

Meanwhile, government and municipal officials were putting their heads together. So long as each individual doctor had come across only two or three cases, no one had thought of taking action. But it was merely a matter of adding up the figures and, once this had been done, the total was startling.

In a very few days the number of cases had risen by leaps and bounds, and it became evident to all observers of this strange malady that a real epidemic had set in.

“I was in China for a good part of my career, and I saw some cases in Paris twenty years ago. Only no one dared to call them by their name on that occasion. The usual taboo, of course; the public mustn’t be alarmed, that wouldn’t do at all. Come now, you know as well as I do what it is.”

Though blue, the sky had a dull sheen that was softening as the light declined.
“It’s hardly credible. But everything points to its being plague.”
The word “plague” had just been uttered for the first time.

With very slight differences, his reaction was the same as that of the great majority of our townsfolk. Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

References and resources

All accompanying captions are edited excerpts from:
Camus, A (1948). The Plague. English translation by Gilbert, S. (Reprint 2010). London: Penguin Essentials.