When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Coronavirus

The Camus Classic In You, From COVID-19 To BLM

Albert Camus’ 1947 'The Plague'
Albert Camus’ 1947 "The Plague"
Bertrand Hauger

Forced to stay home from one day to the next, millions of quarantined people were suddenly faced with a rare luxury in our fast-paced world: time. That, of course, came with a question: What to do with it?

Where others may have chosen to Netflix, garden, read, meditate or complete a 51,300 pieces-jigsaw puzzle, the French seemed to have had a rather French response: Ecrivons ! A survey quoted by daily Le Monde shows that during lockdown, 1 in 10 French had seized the nearest quill, electronic or otherwise, and started jotting down their thoughts. The Robert Laffont publishing house says that within a two-month quarantine span it had received an impressive 1,500 manuscripts — three times more than usual.

The Paris daily notes that the country's publishers remain cautious as to the quality of such a quantity of work. At the same time, the book industry has itself been hit hard by the crisis, with some prominent authors struggling to get their words out, among flat sales rates and cancelled book tours.

So where does that leave the first-time scribes? Much ink, no doubt, is being spilled in the "pandemic-inspired fiction" department. French writers may be hard-pressed to top Albert Camus' 1947 The Plague, the absurdist masterpiece depicting a cholera-like disease sweeping the Algerian city of Oran. But Le Monde reports that these burgeoning new authors are also churning out romance novels, cooking books and poetry, bien sûr.

Across the Atlantic, a similar hodgepodge of creative endeavors is at play, with Arlington Public Library director Diane Kresh introducing the library's Quaranzine: a weekly online publication gathering collages, essays, drawings, comics, etc., from hundreds of local contributors. In Kresh's words, "When the going gets tough, the tough get arty."

And then two weeks ago, the world's storyline seemed to abruptly shift again. With the May 25 killing of George Floyd, questions of racial injustice and police brutality consumed our minds, and time, eclipsing all those pandemic anxieties and bread recipes. Alienation, race and violence driving the Black Lives Matter movement. But if French writers follow that plot, they will be competing with another Camus classic: The Stranger.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Ideas

A Writer's Advice For How To Read The Words Of Politics

Colombia's reformist president has promised to tackle endemic violence, economic exclusion, pollution and corruption in the country. So what's new with a politician's promises?

Image of Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaking during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Jan 14, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaks during a press conference in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023.

Manuel Cortina/ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — Don't concentrate on his words, I was once advised, but look at what he's doing. I heard the words so long ago I cannot recall who said them. The point is, what's the use of a husband who vows never to beat his wife in January and leaves her with a bruised face in February?

Words are a strange thing, and in literal terms, we must distrust their meaning. As I never hit anyone, I have never declared that I wouldn't. It never occurred to me to say it. Strangely, there is more power and truth in a simple declaration like "I love her" than in the more emphatic "I love her so much." A verbal addition here just shrinks the "sense" of love.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest