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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.

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Ideas

Iran: A Direct Link Between Killing Protesters And The Routine Of State Executions

Iran has long had a simple and prolific response to political opposition and the worst criminal offenses, namely death by shooting or hanging. Whether opening fire on the streets or leading the world in carrying out the death penalty, the regime insists that morality is on its side.

Protesters linked to the Iranian group Mojahedin-e Khalq demonstrate in Whitehall, London in 2018

Ahmad Ra'fat

-Editorial-

In early September, before Iran's latest bout of anti-government protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, there was another, quieter demonstration: Relatives of several prisoners sentenced to death staged a sit-in outside the judiciary headquarters in Tehran, urging the authorities to waive the sentences. The crowd, which doggedly refused to disperse, included the convicts' young children.

Executions have been a part and parcel of the Islamic Republic of Iran since its inception in 1979. The new authorities began shooting cadres of the fallen monarchy with unseemly zeal, usually after a summary trial. On Feb. 14, 1979, barely three days after the regime was installed, the first four of the Shah's generals were shot inside a secondary school in Tehran.

To this day, the regime continues to opt for death by firing squad for its political opponents; the execution method-of-choice for more socio-economic blights like drug trafficking has been death by hanging.

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