States of Plague: Reading Albert Camus in a Pandemic (Hardcover)

States of Plague: Reading Albert Camus in a Pandemic By Alice Kaplan, Laura Marris Cover Image
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Description


States of Plague examines Albert Camus’s novel as a palimpsest of  pandemic life, an uncannily relevant account of the psychology and politics of a public health crisis.

As one of the most discussed books of the COVID-19 crisis, Albert Camus’s classic novel The Plague has become a new kind of literary touchstone. Surrounded by terror and uncertainty, often separated from loved ones or unable to travel, readers sought answers within the pages of Camus’s 1947 tale about an Algerian city gripped by an epidemic. Many found in it a story about their own lives—a book to shed light on a global health crisis.

In thirteen linked chapters told in alternating voices, Alice Kaplan and Laura Marris hold the past and present of The Plague in conversation, discovering how the novel has reached people in their current moment.  Kaplan’s chapters explore the book’s tangled and vivid history, while Marris’s are drawn to the ecology of landscape and language. Through these pages, they find that their sense of Camus evolves under the force of a new reality, alongside the pressures of illness, recovery, concern, and care in their own lives. Along the way, Kaplan and Marris examine how the novel’s original allegory might resonate for a new generation of readers who have experienced a global pandemic.  They describe how they learned to contemplate the skies of a plague spring, to examine the body politic and the politics of immunity.

Both personal and eloquently written, States of Plague uncovers for us the mysterious way a novel can imagine the world during a crisis and draw back the veil on other possible futures.

About the Author


Alice Kaplan is the Sterling Professor of French and Director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University. She is coauthor of States of Plague, with Laura Marris, and author of French Lessons, Looking for “The Stranger,” and Dreaming in French, all also published by the University of Chicago Press. She has been a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award. She lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

Laura Marris is a writer and translator. Her recent translations include Albert Camus’s The Plague, Louis Guilloux’s Blood Dark, and Geraldine Schwarz’s Those Who Forget. Her first solo-authored book, The Age of Loneliness, is forthcoming. She lives in Buffalo, New York.

Praise For…


"In this mélange of history, literary analysis, and memoir, the authors explore the intersection between a celebrated novel, current realities, scholarship, language, and the tricks that time and circumstance play on all of them. Seasoned literary historian Kaplan and poet and translator Marris, whose new translation of The Plague was published in 2021, team up to cultivate a deeper understanding of Camus’ classic novel. In alternating short essays, they braid together their distinct sensibilities to offer fresh insight and added significance to a canonical mid-20th-century book. . . . This is a notable addition to the literature about an indispensable French author."
— Kirkus

"This intelligent study goes a long way in highlighting Camus's enduring legacy."
— Publishers Weekly

“I thought I knew both The Plague and what it brings to the story of our own plague experience. After reading Kaplan and Marris’s States of Plague, I realize I could not have been more mistaken. This is a brilliant book that is always eloquent, often insightful, and, at times, simply heartbreaking.”
— Robert Zaretsky, author of "Victories Never Last: Reading and Caregiving in a Time of Plague"

“Turning the intensity of a lockdown gaze on The Plague, Kaplan and Marris restore to Camus's constrained and unsettling allegory a world of associations, from occupied Paris in World War II to crumbling colonial cemeteries in Algiers. These erudite but highly personal reflections spiral outward from careful readings of the novel, relieving the mind like the ventilation of a long-closed room.”
— Emily Ogden, author of "On Not Knowing: How to Love and Other Essays"

“In States of Plague, Kaplan and Marris combine their thought-provoking personal impressions with brilliant critical analyses based on the novel’s wealth of cultural, historical, and political contexts. Their complementary readings function both as a helpful introduction to The Plague and eye-opening observations about the novel’s contemporary relevance.”
— Raymond Gay-Crosier, emeritus, University of Florida
Product Details
ISBN: 9780226815534
ISBN-10: 0226815536
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: October 31st, 2022
Pages: 152