Knowledge and Memories

This weekend, one of my students from last semester was killed. She was a beautiful writer, in both academic prose and in fiction; she had an ability to write dialogue that was both natural in speech and informative in function that I envy. She was going to medical school next year, somewhere; she’d already been accepted somewhere great, but was waiting to hear back from several more.

She was one of the few students in the course who enjoyed reading Camus’ The Plague. And in thinking about her, since the news of her death was made public, I kept coming back to this passage, from near the close of the novel, wherein the main character, Rieux, must face the sudden and surprising death of his friend, Tarrou:

Tarrou had died this evening without their friendship’s having had time to enter fully into the life of either. Tarrou had ‘lost the match,’ as he put it. But what had he, Rieux, won? No more than the experience of having known plague and remembering it, of having known friendship and remembering it, of knowing affection and being destined one day to remember it. So all a man could win in the conflict between plague and life was knowledge and memories. But Tarrou, perhaps, would have called that winning the match. (Camus 291)

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