The State of Siege

First edition (publ. Gallimard)

The State of Siege (French: L'État de siège) is the fourth play by Albert Camus.

Written in 1948, The State of Siegethe original sense is closer to state of emergencyis a play in three acts presenting the arrival of plague, personified by a young opportunist, in sleepy Cadiz and the subsequent creation of a totalitarian regime through the manipulation of fear. Camus is of course thinking about Hitler but even more about Franco, who would stay in power until he died in 1975, after Camus died. That is why the play takes play in Cadiz in Andalusia. In a piece written in 1948, in reply to criticisms from Gabriel Marcel, Camus defended his decision to set the play in Spain, and not in Eastern Europe, citing the ongoing oppression in Spain, France's collusion in it, and the Catholic Church's abandonment of Spanish Christians. [1]

The piece was first performed in October 1948, and was initially received poorly by critics and public, who had eagerly awaited the work, but expected a dramatisation of Camus's novel The Plague. While the two share a common background, the treatments are entirely different in tone. Although Camus himself was pleased with the work, critics remained unimpressed.

The State of Siege has remained almost constantly in print in French, and since 1958 in an English translation by Stuart Gilbertin Caligula and Three Other Playswith a foreword by Camus.


  1. "Why Spain" in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death. Trans. Justin O'Brien. New York, Vintage; 1960.
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