AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From time to time, we turn to literature for a different perspective on the news. We've been following the horrifying story of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. More than 900 people have died. So Michael Schaub has this recommendation of a novel he hasn't been able to stop thinking about since the outbreak began. It's "The Plague" by Albert Camus.
MICHAEL SCHAUB: The plague is set in the city of Oran on the Algerian coast. And the story begins with Doctor Bernard Rieux, who starts to notice rats dying in the city streets. Soon the disease has spread to humans and is killing hundreds of people a week. This isn't a happy story. It's difficult to process so much death. One hardly knows what a dead man is after a while, Camus writes. A hundred million corpses broadcast through history are no more than a puff of smoke in the imagination. But of course it's human instinct to search for meaning in every tragedy, whether it's a civilian airplane shot down by a missile, a never-ending war or a virus. We always ask why, even if we know there's no answer. Eventually the doctor concludes it has no importance whether such things have or have not a meaning. All we need to consider is the answer given to man's hope. If Camus teaches us anything, it's that even when tragedy is inevitable, we have no choice but to work with one another. The disease kills several of the doctor's friends. But just when it looks like the whole city will be destroyed, the plague recedes. The doctor lives and so do many others. For some time anyhow they would be happy, Camus tells us. They knew now that if there's one thing one can always yearn for and sometimes attain, it is human love.
CORNISH: The book is "The Plague" by Albert Camus. That recommendation came from book critic Michael Schaub.