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Fear And Loathing In The Time Of Contagion

Protest rally against Governor Whitmer's order to stay home in Lansing, Michigan
Protest rally against Governor Whitmer's order to stay home in Lansing, Michigan
Benjamin Witte

It is, of course, inevitable that governments' stay-at-home orders and other emergency measures to contain the novel coronavirus would generate differences of opinion.

And yet, even a few weeks ago, it was hard to imagine that it would take as ugly a turn as what's happening right now in the U.S. state of Michigan, where multiplying death threats against Governor Gretchen Whitmer forced authorities to close down the Capitol Building.

On various Facebook pages, people who planned to attend a far-right "Judgement Day" demonstration at the Capitol left comments this week calling for Whitmer "to be hanged, lynched, shot, beaten or beheaded," Newsweek reports. One internet-savvy thug suggested crowdfunding sources to hire a hitman.

That participants in previous protests against the governor's statewide shutdown order showed up in paramilitary-style garb and brandished assault weapons adds an obvious level of gravitas to the threats.

As an American, watching it unfold from my home in France, it's important to note that there's a political and cultural context to the standoff in Michigan that goes beyond the issue of COVID-19. And yes, it is distinctly American — particularly in the era of Trump, who describes the armed, star-spangled protestors as "very good people."

Still, facing the same global health crisis, the United States isn't alone clearly when it comes to public division and distrust: In South Korea, fears of a second wave of the coronavirus have intersected with an undercurrent of homophobia following reports linking a new outbreak of the disease to a gay nightclub, Seoul correspondent Morten Soendergaard Larsen wrote in Foreign Policy.

Elsewhere, the divisions are more subtle. Here in France, for example, French broadcaster France Bleu reported on a flurry of finger-pointing after the partial lifting this week of a two-month lockdown prompted mostly young people to pack the banks of the Saint-Martin canal in Paris for a long-awaited drink outside with friends.

That an evening apéro could be construed as a moral issue speaks volumes about the nature of this particular crisis. There are, of course, gestures here and there of solidarity. But in this bizarre context of contagion and forced confinement, more than good will, what really seems to be spreading is blame and suspicion of anyone who sees the pandemic differently than you.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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