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Iranian Holy Water as Coronavirus Cure Risks Further Spread

Iranians wearing face masks walk past a mosque in Tehran.
Iranians wearing face masks walk past a mosque in Tehran.

TEHRAN — Dubbed "the Prophet's perfume," Shia clerics in Iran are offering a chillingly wrong response to the coronavirus outbreak. Iran's Medical System Organization lodged a formal protest this week against clerics entering hospitals to administer a liquid remedy directly to patients' lips and mouth area, according to the Farsi service of Voice of America.

Video footage showed a cleric circulating among what are estimated to be hundreds of patients, touting "Islamic medicine" as a better response to the pandemic. Doctors warn that the clerics can become carriers, bringing the virus outside hospitals to the faithful elsewhere. The outbreak in Iran is one of the worst in the world. The health ministry reported Friday that the country's death toll had risen to 2,378, with total confirmed infections total at 32,332 cases.

Over the past several weeks, there have been incidents of Shia faithful defying government orders to close mosques and religious shrines to limit the spread of the virus. "The believers are concerned about their identity, especially when scientific research clashes with religion," Haidar Hoballah, a senior teacher at the seminary in the holy city of Qom, told Middle East news site Al-Monitor.

Reacting to these and other reports of clerics touting their own remedies against COVID-19, Iranian Health Minister Sa'id Namaki urged citizens not to think Islamic or traditional medicine could combat coronavirus.

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch is delivering a concise, once-a-day global update on the coronavirus pandemic from the best international news sources, regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily brief in your inbox, sign up here.

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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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