Today’s ill wind has blown in something good, a renewed interest in a neglected novel by a gifted writer. Albert Camus’ “The Plague” was allegorical: Europe’s political plague had been Nazism, which Camus had actively resisted in occupied Paris. But he had been born in French Algeria and surely knew of the 1849 cholera epidemic that ravaged the city of Oran, where 1947’s “The Plague” is set.At the novel’s conclusion, as crowds celebrate the infestation’s end, Camus’ protagonist, Dr. Bernard Rieux, “remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know . . . that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.”For Camus, “enlightening” was a double-edged word. Nature, red in tooth and claw, can be brutally didactic, as it was with the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. This was a chastening reminder, during the Enlightenment’s


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