Liesl Schillinger on What to Read in the Age of Corona
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
On today’s episode, Liesl Schillinger, New School professor, critic, and translator, discusses what we can learn from Albert Camus’s The Plague in respect to today’s pandemic.
From the episode:
Liesl Schillinger: I don’t know if your other readers are like me and reading all kinds of books that relate to different epidemics and and plagues in the past, but the way that Camus writes about it or chose to think about it really matters as a key to all of them. I think some of them are a lot of fun. … But the one theme that Camus brings out in The Plague that I think is really worth underscoring is that the plague he really has in mind was fascism. The idea that a physical contagion effects society in a way that an ideological contagion does, too. And so a lot of these books do, no matter what century they’re written and seem to have, that is a kind of running subtext and counterpoint playing under whatever the story is. Since we have the emergence of this epidemic of Coronavirus at the same time that we have a really unusual government where the president and the attorney general are taking all kinds of powers unto themselves that make the democratically-minded people nervous, I think it’s really worthwhile to keep that thought in mind.
Liesl Schillinger is a New York–based critic, translator, and moderator. She grew up in Midwestern college towns, studied comparative literature at Yale, worked at The New Yorker for more than a decade and became a regular critic for The New York Times Book Review in 2004. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York, The New Republic, The Washington Post, Vogue, Foreign Policy, The London Independent on Sunday, and many other publications. Her recent translations include the novels Every Day, Every Hour by Natasa Dragnic (2012, Viking), and The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas (Penguin Classics, 2013).