Literature celebrates man's sorrow, mournshis grief, soothes his misery, and provides solace andhope.
The human encounter with epidemics is veryold; writers over centuries have frequently explored it in prose and verse,underlining not just its frightening power but also the spirit of the humanresilience in confronting it. Indeed it is a deadly matter of worry, fear and stress but there is much tobe done in epidemic times to keep ones spirit up, providing solace and hope.
With the fear and anxiety going all aroundin the world, a good book can provide an acumen, ease and escape. From BlackDeath (1347-1351), cholera pandemic (1817-192), Spanish flu (1918-1920), HIV/AIDS(1981–) and to now Coronavirus (2019–). Writers have written on it fromHomer, Ghalib to Thomas Gun in present times.
The Decameron (1353) by Boccaccio is in alighter approach to the plague as its theme. Boccaccio imagines a group of tenyouths fleeing the Black Death ravaging Florence and finding refuge in theTuscan hills. It depicts Black Death which descended into Europe killing 75million people. A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) by Daniel Defoe, is arecounting of one man's experiences in 1665, but deploying a wealth ofdetail to simulate a text found rather than created. Plague (1947) by AlbertCamus is one of the most interesting example in these times. The novel is ahaunting tale of human resilience in the face of unrelieved horror. The novelis about a bubonic plague ravaging the people of a North African coastal townis a classic of twentieth-century literature. The book can easily resonate withthe current climate. In the Times of Cholera (1985) by Marquez explores death,decay and the idea of lovesickness as disease and a lyrical escape in the timesof cholera epidemic. The Year of Flood (2009) by Margret Atwood depicts thelong-feared waterless flood has occurred, altering Earth as we know it andobliterating most human life. Pain Killer (2018) by Barry Meier depictsAmericans who were died due to painkillers between 1999 and 2017. An estimated250,000 Americans died from overdoses involving prescription painkillers. PainKiller, exposes the roots of the most pressing health epidemic of thetwenty-first century that has torn apart families, destroyed businesses, andpushed public officials to the brink. 'In the Times of Plague' a poem by ThomasGun is an interesting read on HIV/ADIS as he writes:
My thoughts are crowded with death
and it draws so oddly on the sexual
that I am confused
confused to be attracted
by, in effect, my own annihilation
Pandemic, epidemic and infectious diseasesand viruses in literature reveal and remind us that the social and culturalboundaries we use to structure society are fragile and unsecured, not stableand impermeable. Although these works of literature cannot prophesize animminent future, they can speak to our present situation at least.
The work of literature can help you betterunderstand and cope how the virus amplifies complex, diverse and multi-facetedfears about change the world. One important thing is still missing that theGovt. ought to do in favor of coronavirus's awareness and eradication. A smallbooklet of just few pages, displaying its symptoms, signs, treatment andprevention may help in today's epidemic making the general public aware. Inresponding to plagues and pandemics literature celebrates the enduring range ofhuman response and resilience against the attack of diseases and viruses.
Reading literature is essential, as itprovides food for thought. Times like this when thoughts are running wild,escaping into other experiences, or trying to understand what is happeningthrough the lens of humanity and brotherhood and how to lessen the anxiety canonly be traced in pages of a literary piece. Literature is a source of solacein an extremely challenging times. Besafe, stay inside and rejoice reading.
Ahsan ul Haq is pursuing PhD from department of English, University of Kashmir.