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At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Friday, 3 April 2020

Camus - The Plague - translation

Here is a translation of the piece I wrote in French as an exercise for my French lesson with my local French teacher. Please bear in mind this would have been written rather differently if I had been writing just in English. The reference to Foot and Mouth Disease at the end pins this right back to 2001 !

Also note that this was before I later read the novel in French.

I note also my prolific use of the word "very" which nowadays is almost absent from my vocabulary  but I felt obliged to leave it as is here.

Yesterday I finished reading La Peste by Albert Camus.

It is certainly a profound book.

First all it seemed to be a simple story but little by little I recognised its analogy to the occupation of France during the Second World War.

Halfway through the writing becomes more philosophical with characters asking metaphysical questions.

There is a description of the death of the son of M. Othon the magistrate. I suppose it is the most memorable scene in the book for most readers. The description is very moving, but Camus conveys it without sentimentality, and with much humanity.

The most heartbreaking description for me was that of M. Tarrou’s death, the friend of Dr. Rieux who is the narrator. After seeing the long drawn out death of my own wife I didn’t think I would be able to read these words.

That description is so true in every small detail, and I think it would have been impossible for Camus to have written this without having witnessed the death of a friend himself. Camus describes and interprets each movement of the eyes after Tarrou can no longer speak, and each little smile which only has meaning between the two friends. I think that perhaps this was the most striking passage that I read.

The study of the curé, M Paneloux with his beliefs snd convictions and his doubts is very penetrating, particularly because he has an effect on the other characters when he questions the existence of a god who permits the suffering of innocent children.

At the beginning of the fourth section Camus describes how everybody has become tired with the endless work, and they no longer have interest in the news or the pursuit of their employment. Camus compares them to soldiers in a war tired out by incessant stress and only having the motivation for routine daily functions, and which prevents any hope of the end of the battle or the declaration of an armistice.

I think that I would like to read this book again.

Whichever page you would open this book at you would find serious and meaningful words.


I hope that we will not see poorly rats in Hollins Lane - we have enough problems with Foot and Mouth Disease.


  1. Yes , I agree, a very good summary of your impressions and reactions to Camus' words and would be an excellent introduction to the book for anyone contemplating reading it - in either language.
    One wonders - did you write the French whilst thinking in French or in thinking in English which you then translated into the written French as you went along ? (for the avoidance of doubt - I don't mean 'wrote down in English and then translated', of course)

  2. BC - Thanks for that. I'm not sure whether the marks are awarded for the original or the translation.


    gimmer - I'm not sure how it is done. A mixture of thinking in English perhaps for the first sentence, then thinking in French on and off mixed with thinking in English - certsinly nothing wertten in advance in either language, but breaks to consult the dictionary here and there and also French grammar texts. Although I always try hard at proof reading I often ovelook errors and a number of the correctins on the original are just unforgiveable omissions or typos.


    Kendal grufties - In reply to the proposed comment you sent by email which you had problems with posting:

    Hi Mo,

    Thanks for your kind words. D'accord! Camus is a fine writer. It is sad that he also met a tragic end.

    I tried to copy and paste your comments but it wouldn’t work, otherwise I would have published them as a comment on the blog.

    It may or may not work but I have found the following on occasions. When you go to open a blog you often have two choices. One is to click on the blog’s name e.g. and the other is to click on the title of the individual post. I am not sure which way round it is but sometimes with one of those options there are restrictions on making comments - it may be worth a try. If it worked I would be mightily pleased - I do value comments highly and always respond ( or nearly always).

    I hope you are doing ok with this awful business. I am muddling along quite happily in my own environment at the moment, but can’t help but be saddened at the news from outside.

    Best regards to you both,

  3. he was assassinated by the KGB

  4. Kendal grufties - I meant to add that I read Steppenwolf about ten years ago. I suspect that it would have been more appealing to you at your younger aged student days.

  5. Anonymous - I'm not sure of your identity. However, I would have thought trying to kill somebody by arranging a csr crash would first of all not be technically easy, and secondly not guaranteed successful. In this case I think two of the occupants survived and Camus had reduced his own chances of survivsl by not wearing a seat belt. I think the KGB were a bit smarter than that? I have only taken the above information from Wiki and not read any more detailed conspiracy theory publications which may or may not furnish more circumstantial evidence.

  6. About once every two years I dream I am speaking French. I'm flawless and the rate is about 250 wpm. Frenchmen listening shrug their shoulders, look around for help and, as a final resort, change the subject. Everything seems normal except my glass of Ch. Latour 1968 keeps refilling itself. I start taking notes, suspecting I may be in a place whence return will be impossible.

  7. RR - Although Camus rejected being labelled as existential he is so associated - your dream seems to have conotations in that direction so quite topical for this post, although, as far as I understand it existentialism is to do with freedom of the individual whereas you seem almost to bea prisoner in the dream.

  8. I've just seen your comment about assassinations - until the days of poison tipped umbrellas and door knobs, the staged car accident was a staple of the KGB and other actors - of course it took planning and sometimes skillful sabotage, and was not 100% reliable first time, with 'collateral damage' (but, from what I have read, I don't think that worried them - nor the CIA or MI6 for that matter): but if you fail, you can always try again, whereas when at last you win, they lose, big time. You have to have the luck of AH to survive successive attempts - most are successful in the end.
    By and large, however, they are, in the end, a sign of weakness and failure - you can shoot the messenger, but the message lives on - and strengthens as the list of martyrs grows.
    This is not, of course, the same as tyrannical suppression in your own territory - although, even there, it is eventually doomed to failure: even today, despite AI and total population surveillance, I think that truth and freedom will prevail.

  9. gimmer - I culled the following from the Internet - the author had taken some official statistics I think from the USA.

    "Given 5,419,000 crashes of which only 30,296 caused fatalities, ignoring details such as the number of passengers per car, pedestrian deaths etc, we can estimate that the probability of surviving a car crash in 2010 was 99.994% and is likely to be much the same today."

    Ok, there may be some doubt about these figures and also the contributory factors, e.g. number of people, severity of crashes etc., but even if you halved the result it would still indicate somewhere in the region of a 50% survival rate, so whilst I appreciate what you say I still think it is a pretty stupid, cumbersome and difficult to achieve way of doing the job.

  10. I think those numbers are misleading - a fender bender is counted as equivalent to a total in those figures.
    In 1960, the percentages were very different - inherently safer car design, seat belts (very rare in 1960 anywhere) airbags etc. - and of course they used psychology - lovers of speed were disproportionate victims and it is surprising how many 'targets' were speed addicts - and, as I said, today it is not a preferred method.
    Far less messy methods are used nowadays - with a higher success rate and of avoidance of both discovery and detection - but even now, there are failures, usually due to the inevitable lapses in following the approved procedure: watch out for drone delivered assassination by virus, controlled from Moscow or Pekin. Or Langley, of course. Never Vauxhall Cross.

  11. gimmer, yes, but I allowed for the anomalies by a generous 50% reduction, and even if it was down to say 30% I still stand by my opinion that it is a stupid means to an uncertain end. By the way, Camus was not driving so speed mania is not as likely to be relevant. I haven't researched any further, only Wiki, but there is no supporting circumstantial evidence that I have seen, so from what I have read at the moment it just sounds like an unsubstantiated rumour. If I was presented with further evidence I may be more persuaded. I don't even now unequivocally dismiss the possibility that the KGB were involved, just that if they were, it was in my opinion a badly conceived method not worthy of supposedly intelligent people, supposedly skilled in the art of assassination.

    I have no doubts more ingenious methods are now employed but they are not relevant to the Camus case.