If we can’t be saints, let’s be healers

In this time of virus lockdown, social distancing and polarization, these lines from the final pages of “The Plague” by Albert Camus (1947) seem useful:

“(He) decided then to write the account which ends here, in order not to be among those who stay silent, in order to leave at least a memory of the injustice and violence done to them, and to state simply what we learn in the midst of plagues, that in humankind there are more things to admire than things to despise. But he knew nevertheless that this chronicle could not be that of a final victory. It could only bear witness to what had to be done and would have, no doubt, to be done still, against fear and its tireless weaponry, despite their personal losses, by all the people who, unable to be saints and refusing to accept pestilence, try nevertheless to be healers.”

Pléiade edition of Camus’ works, which I bought in Nantes in 1978. Photo by Martin Langfield

(Translation is mine. Camus uses “médecins” at the end, which usually means “doctors,” but since we can’t all be doctors like his narrator, I chose a broader term. We can all be healers, one way or another, even if we can’t be saints. Just saying.)


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