Les survivants de l’Apocalypse

(This comes from the fun discussion yesterday in comments.)

The unusual events describes in this chronicle occurred in 20__ in Oran. The account of the first days needs giving in some detail.

When leaving his surgery on the morning of April 16, Dr. Bernard Rieux felt something soft under his foot. It was a child’s shoe, part of a whole outfit lying in the middle of the landing. On the spur of the moment he kicked it to one side and, without giving it a further thought, continued on his way downstairs.

Only when he was stepping into the lobby did it occur to him that a set of children’s clothing had no business to be on his landing, and he turned back to ask the concierge of the building to see to its removal. It was not until he noticed old M. Michel’s reaction to the news that he realized the peculiar nature of his discovery. Personally, he had thought the presence of the clothes rather odd, no more than that; the concierge, however, was genuinely outraged. On one point he was categorical: “There weren’t no children here.” In vain the doctor assured him that, children or no, a set of children’s clothing was, indeed, to be found on the second-floor landing; M. Michel’s conviction wasn’t to be shaken. There “weren’t no children in the building,” he repeated, so someone must have brought those clothes from outside. Some prankster trying to be funny, most likely.

On his way out to the street the doctor passed on the stairway a stocky, youngish man, with a big, deeply furrowed face and bushy eyebrows. Puffing a cigarette, Jean Tarrou was gazing down at a pile of clothing on the step in front of him. He looked up and his gray eyes remained fixed on the doctor for some moments; then, after wishing him a good day, he remarked that it was rather odd, the way all these strange piles of clothing lay abandoned along the street.

“Very odd,” Rieux agreed, “and it ends by getting on one’s nerves.”

“In a way, Doctor, only in a way. We’ve not seen anything of the sort before, that’s all. Personally I find it interesting, yes, definitely interesting.”

Tarrou ran his fingers through his hair to brush it off his forehead, looked again at the pile of clothes — a woman’s dress, a pair of spectacles haphazardly fallen on top — then smiled toward Rieux.

“But really, Doctor, it’s the concierge’s headache, isn’t it?”

This is the literary mash-up I’d like to see: Left Behind and The Plague. Give me Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy” scheme, but instead of Rayford Steele, Buck Williams and the rest, give me a “Tribulation Force” of Dr. Rieux, Jean Tarrou, Rambert, Grand, Cottard, Fr. Paneloux and all the others.

It would be a better story — not just because those characters are more interesting, or because Albert Camus was a far better writer than Jerry Jenkins. It would be a better story because Camus and Rieux set out:

… to state quite simply what we learn in time of [Great Tribulation]: that there are more things to admire in humanity than to despise.

Tim LaHaye, and Tim LaHaye’s God, ruined their story by taking the opposite view.


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  • Brightie

    For those who grew up in the subculture and were as serious about labeling themselves sinners as they were about labeling others, it can sometimes be less disingenuous ass-covering than self-hatred. They think what so-and-so does is evil deserving hellfire, but they also think that every flaw they recognize in themselves, even if it’s a thought-life thing they never acted on, is deserving of hellfire. And it can be a quite miserable lens through which to look at the world. (Been there, done that.)