By ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST (with ORLAN) April, 2020
Artists and writers have been recording the epidemics that swept the Western world and using them as material since Giovanni Boccaccio opens The Decameron with a group of youths fleeing the plague in Florence to group-isolate in a villa and tell each other stories. That was the Black Death, which spread a mile a day and was a productive source of gleefully gruesome prints and illuminations. Thereafter there were sporadic plague in Europe. Daniel Defoe and Samuel Pepys wrote about London’s Great Plague of 1665, Defoe’s novel, A Journal of the Plague Year, being probably cribbed from his uncle’s diary,
Corona/Covid-19 is a different story, being a killer, yes, both of people and jobs, but very much less mysterious – Londoners had blamed their Great Plagues on “bad air” – and it will be stopped. And the artists, the writers? Well, self-isolation tends to be standard operating procedure so that’s no ordeal, and the sweeping away of distractions can – okay, does – offer focus time. Is there ugliness? That too. But the work goes on and from here on you will be regularly seeing the results and reading the stories here.
A MESSAGE FROM ORLAN:
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE LOCKDOWN I'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT MANDELA CONFINED IN A TINY LITTLE CELL FOR 27 YEARS.
IT IS ESSENTIAL NOT TO COMPLAIN, IT IS ESSENTIAL TO WRITE.
I'M WRITING MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY WHICH COULD NEVER HAVE BEEN WRITTEN WITHOUT THIS TRUCE... KNOWING THAT SOMETIMES WORDS SAVE AND SOMETIMES THEY KILL... WM
Anthony Haden-Guest is an internationally known writer and artist.
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