Over the history of Western literature about pandemics, much has been said in the way of catharsis, ways of dealing with intense emotion, and political commentary on how people respond to public health crises.

It is worth to peruse these texts to understand our reactions to the spread of this virus.



Pandemics from Homer to Stephen King: what we can learn from literary history


Homer's Iliad opens with a plague visited upon the Greek camp at Troy. The Decameron (1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio is set during the Black Death.

The stories offer the listeners ways to consider how similar crises have been managed previously, and how to reorganize their daily lives, which have been suspended due to the epidemic.


  • Mary Shelley's apocalypse novel The Last Man (1826), depicts the life of Lionel Verney, who becomes the last man after a devastating global plague. The book criticizes the institutional responses to the plague, showing the revolutionary utopianism and the in-fighting that breaks out among surviving groups before they also die.
  • The short story, The Masque of the Red Death (1842), also shows the failures o authority figures to respond to a disaster appropriately.


  • Albert Camus' The Plague (1942) and Stephen King's The Stand (1978) depict the social implications of plague-like pandemics, particularly regarding isolation and failures of the state to contain the disease and moderate the growing panic.
  • The 2016 novel Fever by Deon Meyer describes the results of a bioengineered virus where survivors besiege one another for resources.


Some speculative novels written by indigenous peoples and writers of color are treating colonialism and the diseases that spread by the colonizers as the source of an ongoing apocalypse.

For many people in formerly colonized places, the apocalypse has already come - literally and metaphorically - and have destroyed their populations.


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