n French Studies in Southern Africa - L'Homme séparé ou l'expérience du réel dans de Camus

Volume 2004, Issue 33
  • ISSN : 0259-0247



This article deals with the notion of separateness in one of the most well known fictional works by Albert Camus, French philosopher and writer. The author made no secret of the fact that he chose the theme of the plague to express in an allegorical way the situation of France during W.W.II under the occupation by the German army. Although it is not the argument to be followed in this article, it is essential to keep in mind the historico-political context (the book was published in 1947) in order to grasp the scope of the notion of "separateness" which is developed.

The unusual narrative form of the book is explored as well as the profound meaning to be given to the "plague", not the disease, but what it represents. The "carnets" written by Tarroux as a journal are incorporated into the argument in such a way that they highlight the main concern of the narrator in his story: how can the plague be "told"? Various ways of relating the plague are explored; from the point of view of several characters, including Dr Rieux who is the narrator in disguise and a non-professional historian of the plague. None of them appear to be fully relevant in the face of the magnitude of the tragedy, except the unexpected way Joseph Grand deals with the situation.
Finally, the notion of "separateness" unfolds in a totally original way by considering the very act of narrating the plague as the tool of separation. Prisoners in the same prison (which exists in the realm of reality), attempt to make sense of their destiny only to discover that by doing so they can only put into words their own materialized version of the experience. In so doing, they are part and parcel of the separation, which makes them foreign to each of their fellow men. Only Joseph Grand has his unique answer to the dilemma.

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