The Plague by Albert Camus

A mysterious plague sweeps through the Algerian town of Oran. ...more info on wikipedia

About the artist: Seonaid MacKayfrom the U.K.

Seonaid studied graphic design and illustration firstly at Glasgow School of Art, then for an MA at the Royal College of Art. She spent several years first making short experimental films before working for Channel 4 television as a director. She then studied for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. She is currently writing and illustrating a collection of short stories for Visual Editions.

Why this work

“The Plague is an allegory for the wartime occupation of France, but more generally it is a tale about the human condition, about morality, and about human nature. It is set in the Algerian coastal town of Oran, a town that closes its borders to the outside world after an outbreak of the plague. The story looks at the different reactions of the town’s inhabitants to their situation; some deal with it by denial, and life goes on almost as normal, whereas others decide to make a stand and “fight the plague with decency.” Camus never moralises while questioning our motives for goodness and heroism.” “I wanted to find an image to illustrate the moment when the plague comes to the town, because it is a turning point, a significant instant which will change everything for everyone, in Oran. What stayed with me most when I read The Plague was how intensely visual and atmospheric it was, with much of the imagery dedicated to evoking the loneliness and isolation of Oran itself. There’s a line in the book: “This empty town, white with dust, saturated with sea smells, loud with the howl of the wind, would groan at such times like an island of the damned.” That made me think of The Island of the Dead, the great Symbolist painting by Arnold Böcklin. In the painting, a ghostly figure, that seems to represent Death, approaches a silent island at night. The painting is both beguiling and menacing, and has an emotional impact that’s difficult to explain. I wanted to show Oran in a similar manner, both threatening and beautiful. In my image I show the town at night, everything still and calm under the moon, except for a single rat in the sea, picked out in the moonlight; it is the carrier of the plague, and it is swimming towards the shore.”