Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 03-26-2020, 10:15 PM
Jackknifed Juggernaut is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Lenni Lenape Land
Posts: 6,105

Question about The Plague by Camus


With the current state of the world, I decided to dust off one of my favorite books, that I last read in school about 3 decades ago. I’m about 1/4 of the way through, and am curious about a statement made by the narrator when conjuring up images of past plagues in history. Here is the excerpt:

“A tranquility so casual and thoughtless seemed almost effortlessly to give the lie to those old pictures of the plague: Athens, a charnel-house reeking to heaven and deserted even by the birds; Chinese towns cluttered up with victims silent in their agony; the convicts at Marseille piling rotting corpses into pits; the building of the Great Wall in Provence to fend off the furious plague-wind; the damp, putrefying pallets stuck to the mud floor at the Constantinople lazar-house, where the patients were hauled up from their beds with hooks; the carnival of masked doctors at the Black Death; men and women copulating in the cemeteries of Milan; cartloads of dead bodies rumbling through London’s ghoul-haunted darkness, nights and days filled always, everywhere, with the eternal cry of human pain.”

Excerpt From
The Plague
Albert Camus
https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/...?id=1050218169
This material may be protected by copyright.

Men and women copulating in a cemetery? What was he referring to, and why?
__________________
"That's right. Even my feet have balls." Stephen Colbert 9/28/10
  #2  
Old 03-26-2020, 11:01 PM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 4,773
Boccaccio talks about people "singing and frolicking and satisfying the appetite in everything possible", drinking, doing whatever they felt like because the ministers and authorities of the laws were all dead or sick, but I don't remember anything about copulating in a cemetery. Indeed, he describes the difficulty of getting rid of all the bodies and the difficulties in organizing anything resembling a normal funeral and burial, and that everybody shunned the sick; you'd think people might avoid the graveyards where all the bodies got dumped when they could fuck in any of the random abandoned houses Boccaccio says people felt free to go into and do whatever they wanted.
  #3  
Old 03-27-2020, 10:18 AM
solost is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 778
Maybe it's an extreme version of "whistling past the graveyard". What better defiance of death than copulating in a cemetary?

Last edited by solost; 03-27-2020 at 10:19 AM.
  #4  
Old 03-27-2020, 01:07 PM
Maserschmidt's Avatar
Maserschmidt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: New England
Posts: 5,961
I do realize this joke has been made a million times, probably literally, and yet I truly believe this is the best name for a metal album ever.
  #5  
Old 03-27-2020, 06:46 PM
Jackknifed Juggernaut is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Lenni Lenape Land
Posts: 6,105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maserschmidt View Post
I do realize this joke has been made a million times, probably literally, and yet I truly believe this is the best name for a metal album ever.
“Copulating in a Cemetery”?
__________________
"That's right. Even my feet have balls." Stephen Colbert 9/28/10
  #6  
Old 03-27-2020, 07:21 PM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 4,773
There are already multiple bands, and musical albums, and paintings, and obviously novels called The Plague, so that at least is not a joke.
  #7  
Old 03-28-2020, 12:43 PM
eunoia's Avatar
eunoia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Outside Poker Flat
Posts: 1,745
Quote:
Originally Posted by solost View Post
Maybe it's an extreme version of "whistling past the graveyard". What better defiance of death than copulating in a cemetary?
This, I think. In war and plague people quickly realize that awful mistakes are being made, some innocently ignorant and some malicious, and it's a part of human nature that some people just snap and decide to go big.
  #8  
Old 03-28-2020, 02:11 PM
Dropo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 711
This is pure speculation:

If you were piling corpses, male and female, one atop another in a cemetery, a colorful/sardonic description of what it might look like would be "men and women copulating." Note that the narrator also describes a "carnival of masked doctors at the Black Death," another description not to be taken literally. Further support for this interpretation comes from post #2: "Indeed, he (Boccaccio) describes the difficulty of getting rid of all the bodies and the difficulties in organizing anything resembling a normal funeral and burial." This suggests dead bodies were dumped in the cemetery sans burial.

Then again, perhaps it is a reference to dying people indulging in one last doomed fling. In any event, glad I wasn't there.

Last edited by Dropo; 03-28-2020 at 02:13 PM.
  #9  
Old 03-28-2020, 03:19 PM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 4,773
Since it is relevant, here is the translated paragraph of Boccaccio's describing how rotting bodies were piled on each other and how hundreds of corpses at a time were dumped in mass graves:

Quote:
The condition of lower, and, perhaps, in great measure of the middle ranks, of the people shewed even worse and more deplorable; for, deluded by hope or constrained by poverty, they stayed in their quarters, in their houses, where they sickened by thousands a day, and, being without service or help of any kind, were, so to speak, irredeemably devoted to the death which overtook them. Many died daily or nightly in the public streets; of many others, who died at home, the departure was hardly observed by their neighbours, until the stench of their putrefying bodies carried the tidings; and what with their corpses and the corpses of others who died on every hand the whole place was a sepulchre. It was the common practice of most of the neighbours, moved no less by fear of contamination by the putrefying bodies than by charity towards the deceased, to drag the corpses out of the houses with their own hands, aided, perhaps, by a porter, if a porter was to be had, and to lay them in front of the doors, where any one who made the round might have seen, especially in the morning, more of them than he could count; afterwards they would have biers brought up, or, in default, planks, whereon they laid them. Nor was it once or twice only that one and the same bier carried two or three corpses at once; but quite a considerable number of such cases occurred, one bier sufficing for husband and wife, two or three brothers, father and son, and so forth. And times without number it happened, that, as two priests, bearing the cross, were on their way to perform the last office for some one, three or four biers were brought up by the porters in rear of them, so that, whereas the priests supposed that they had but one corpse to bury, they discovered that there were six or eight, or sometimes more. Nor, for all their number, were their obsequies honoured by either tears or lights or crowds of mourners; rather, it was come to this, that a dead man was then of no more account than a dead goat would be to-day. From all which it is abundantly manifest, that that lesson of patient resignation, which the sages were never able to learn from the slight and infrequent mishaps which occur in the natural course of events, was now brought home even to the minds of the simple by the magnitude of their disasters, so that they became indifferent to them. As consecrated ground there was not in extent sufficient to provide tombs for the vast multitude of corpses which day and night, and almost every hour, were brought in eager haste to the churches for interment, least of all, if ancient custom were to be observed and a separate resting-place assigned to each, they dug, for each graveyard, as soon as it was full, a huge trench, in which they laid the corpses as they arrived by hundreds at a time, piling them up as merchandise is stowed in the hold of a ship, tier upon tier, each covered with a little earth, until the trench would hold no more.
  #10  
Old 03-28-2020, 04:38 PM
road_lobo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dropo View Post
Note that the narrator also describes a "carnival of masked doctors at the Black Death," another description not to be taken literally.
It can be taken literally.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_doctor

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_doctor_costume
  #11  
Old 03-29-2020, 12:12 PM
Maserschmidt's Avatar
Maserschmidt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: New England
Posts: 5,961
Quote:
Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
There are already multiple bands, and musical albums, and paintings, and obviously novels called The Plague, so that at least is not a joke.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackknifed Juggernaut View Post
“Copulating in a Cemetery”?
Yes, Copulating in a Cemetery.
  #12  
Old 03-30-2020, 01:24 PM
thelurkinghorror is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Venial Sin City
Posts: 14,202
This is the biggest plague in Milan. 25% dead.

The original section in French is:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Camus
Et une tranquillité si pacifique et si indifférente niait presque sans effort les vieilles images du fléau, Athènes empestée et désertée par les oiseaux, les villes chinoises remplies d’agonisants silencieux, les bagnards de Marseille empilant dans des trous les corps dégoulinants, la construction en Provence du grand mur qui devait arrêter le vent furieux de la peste, Jaffa et ses hideux mendiants, les lits humides et pourris collés à la terre battue de l’hôpital de Constantinople, les malades tirés avec des crochets, le carnaval des médecins masqués pendant la Peste noire, les accouplements des vivants dans les cimetières de Milan, les charrettes de morts dans Londres épouvanté, et les nuits et les jours remplis, partout et toujours, du cri interminable des hommes.
"Accouplements" is not a inaccurate translation, "mating" also works.

This book
mentions sex in graveyards during plagues, but not specifically Milan. The quoted Villani died (of plague!) 250 years before.

A metaphoric sense is also possible, but plague doctor memes are going strong now, get in the loop!
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:52 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017