Today we conclude our preview of the new (Summer) issue of the Claremont Review of Books. With the indulgence of the editors, this bonus edition delivers the superb essay by Algis Valiunas on the literature of pandemics past: “In plague time.” This is a long essay reviewing the best literature on plagues ancient and modern. Algis writes:
Amid the fear, sorrow, anger, and frustration of waiting out the current pandemic, as we sit at home hoping for a return to normalcy and worrying it won’t happen any time soon, we have been presented with a rare opportunity to reflect on the brevity and fragility of our lives, and how we are using the time left us. The inveterately bookish have more time than usual to devote to our addiction, and there is a masterly and instructive literature that bears directly on our present situation. This literature treats of epidemics far more frightful than that of COVID-19, and reminds us what human beings are capable of, in the way of nobility and depravity, when the question of whether one will live out the week is a 50-50 proposition.
Algis is a fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a regular essayist for the CRB. His CRB essays are collected here. Everything he writes is worth your time. This essay is the best I have read on the subject and also perfect weekend reading. It may even prompt you to add a book or two to your nightstand. With my thanks to the editors of the CRB, here it is once more: “In plague time.”