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Camus on the Coronavirus
Commentary by Alain de Botton in The New York Times
Detail, Portrait of the French writer, Albert Camus; by Kurt Hutton, Getty Images
Research and Perspectives for the Pandemic
Main Page | Elective Affinities
EXCERPT | THE NEW YORK TIMES | MARCH 19, 2020
By Alain de Botton
"For Camus, when it comes to dying, there is no progress in history, there is no escape from our frailty. Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable 'underlying condition.' Plague or no plague, there is always, as it were, the plague, if what we mean by that is a susceptibility to sudden death, an event that can render our lives instantaneously meaningless.
"This is what Camus meant when he talked about the 'absurdity' of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.
“The Plague isn’t trying to panic us, because panic suggests a response to a dangerous but short-term condition from which we can eventually find safety. But there can never be safety — and that is why, for Camus, we need to love our fellow damned humans and work without hope or despair for the amelioration of suffering."
Alain de Botton