The Guest by Albert Camus

Topics: Ciara, Existential quantification Pages: 22 (5142 words) Published: April 28, 2012
The Guest
by Albert Camus
Translated by Justin O'Brien
he schoolmaster was watching the
two men climb toward him. One was
on horseback, the other on foot.
They had not yet tackled the abrupt rise
leading to the schoolhouse built on the
hillside. They were toiling onward, making
slow progress in the snow, among the
stones, on the vast expanse oft he high,
deserted plateau. From time to time the
horse stumbled. Without hearing anything
yet, he could see the breath issuing from
the horses nostrils. One of the men, at
least, knew the region. They were following
the trail although it had disappeared days
ago under a layer of dirty white snow. The
schoolmaster calculated that it would take
them half an hour to get onto the hill. It was
cold; he went back into the school to get a
He crossed the empty, frigid
classroom. On the blackboard the four
rivers of France, 1 drawn with four different
colored chalks, had been flowing toward
their estuaries for the past three days.
Snow had suddenly fallen in mid-October
after eight months of drought without the
transition of rain, and the twenty pupils,
more or less, who lived in the villages
scattered over the plateau had stopped
coming. With fair weather they would
return. Daru now heated only the single
room that was lodging, adjoining the
classroom and giving also onto the plateau
to the east. Like the class cows, his window
looked to the south too. On that side the
school was a few kilometers from the point
where the plateau began to slope toward
the south. In clear weather could be seen
the purple mass of the mountain range
where the gap opened onto the desert.
Somewhat warmed, Daru returned
to the window from which he had first seen
the two men. They were no longer visible.
Hence they must have tackled the rise. The
sky was not so dark, for the snow had
stopped falling during the night. The morning
had opened with a dirty light which had
scarcely become brighter as the ceiling of
clouds lifted. At two in the after- noon it
seemed as if the day were merely beginning.
But still this was better than those three days
when the thick snow was falling amidst
unbroken darkness with little gusts of wind
that rattled the double door of the classroom.
Then Daru had spent long hours in his
room, leaving it only to go to the shed and
feed the chickens or get some coal.
Fortunately the delivery truck from Tadjid,
the nearest village to the north, had brought
his supplies two days before the blizzard. It
would return in forty-eight hours.
Besides, he had enough to resist a
siege, for the little room was cluttered with
bags of wheat that the administration left as a
stock to distribute to those of his pupils
whose families had suffered from the
drought. Actually they had all been victims
because they were all poor. Every day Daru
would distribute a ration to the children.
They had missed it, he knew, during these
bad days. Possibly one of the fathers would
come this afternoon and he could supply
them with grain. It was just a matter of
carrying them over to the next harvest. Now
shiploads of wheat were arriving from France
and the worst was over. But it would be hard
to forget that poverty, that army of ragged
ghosts wandering in the sunlight, the plateaus
burned to a cinder month after month, the
earth shriveled up little by little, literally
scorched, every stone bursting into dust
under one's foot. The sheep had died then by
thousands and even a few men, here and
there, sometimes without anyone's knowing.
- 2 -
In contrast with such poverty, he
who lived almost like a monk in his remote
schoolhouse, nonetheless satisfied with the
little he had and with the rough life, had felt
like a lord with his whitewashed walls, his
narrow couch, his unpainted shelves, his
well, and his weekly provision of water and
food. And suddenly this snow, without
warning, without the foretaste of rain. This
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