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Pandemics are nothing new to mankind. They have been there since the evolution of man till he started to settle in civilizations. If we glance back at history, we could see that pandemics have always swept away a bunch of beings, animals and humans alike; right from the 11th-century leprosy disease to the bubonic plague, cholera pandemic to the Spanish flu and HIV/AIDS to the current disastrous COVID-19.
Literature has always been a nexus of pandemics. Shocking as it may sound, literary thinkers from all around the world have made and still making predictions. The future and pandemics seem to be alluring to them and interestingly, their predictions have made their way to reality. Literature provides a perceptive and deep understanding of pandemics and thus, proves to offer a lending hand during times of crisis.
Pandemics wipe out generations and the economy of a particular country leaving it to feel scarred and scared. The devastation caused by pandemics has been flown into many works of authors such as Albert Camus (The Plague), Stephen King (The Stand), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Love in the Time of Cholera), Jose Saramago (Blindness) and many others. Whilst writing about how pandemics strike hard against people, these writers never kept death far away from their minds. It is to be faced, making it highly dystopian.
The literature considers man emotionally than cognitively and goes way deeper than facts and pie diagrams to explain how pandemics alter mankind. Yes, it cannot shield and provide vaccines against it, which now even modern science is unable to. But it gives an insight into how people respond during outbreaks. Karen Thompson’s “The Dreamers” is an apt example. The novel deals with a strange and highly contagious sleeping virus and at the core has one last wedding with a bride all dizzy and pale, awaiting danger.
Walker has explored the channels through which a pandemic spreads. It’s nothing but friendship, fondness, and love. Similar to today’s demonic COVID-19, Walker’s characters face a severe shortage of face masks, panic buying and swarming of people in supermarkets and loved ones ending up in quarantine. Last but not the least, the impossibility of not comprehending the danger of a virus.
Albert Camus’ “The Plague” reflects on the struggles faced by medical staff and health care workers which, needless to say, have a special resemblance now. Dr Rieux’s dedication and humanity at such testing times are more than just fiction, bringing the readers on the verge of emotions. Camus sees a virus more than an external force. He employs the idea that it is always inside humans, never free from it.
The final pages warn us that pandemics are always lurking behind curtains, waiting to appear like the Judgement day. He subtly informs that a virus will be jubilant in a jubilant crowd and distant from distant homes.