Category: Pandemic

Sarah Hall: Burntcoat

The latest addition to my website is Sarah Hall‘s Burntcoat. Our heroine is Edith Harknesss. We follow her life from when she was ten and her mother, a successful novelist, had an aneurysm but survived though much changed. Edith decides to become an artist, focussing on monumental works using shou sugi ban, a Japanese charred timber technique and has considerable success. However a pandemic strikes – seemingly worse than covid just as she is starting the love affair of her life with a Turkish chef and the pair hide out in her huge converted warehouse called Burntcoat. The pandemic leaves Edith with the equivalent of long covid, though this form seems it be generally fatal, as she works on her final monumental work. It is another superb work from Sarah Hall and confirms her as one of Britain’s leading novelists.

Mario Bellatin: Salón de belleza (Beauty Salon)/Poeta ciego [Blind Poet]

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The latest addition to my website are two stories by Mario Bellatin. The first is a new translation of Salón de belleza (Beauty Salon) and the second an untranslated work Poeta ciego [Blind Poet]. The first tells of a beauty salon for women run by three cross-dressing, gay men. When an AIDS-like pandemic breaks out the owner converts it into a hospice/mortuary where seriously ill men (and only men) can come to die. However, all the time – both as a beauty salon and as a hospice/mortuary – he remains obsessed with his aquarium fish. And then he gets symptoms of the disease.

Poeta ciego [Blind Poet] tells of a blind poet who inherits a lot of money and founds a bizarre sect, apparently (according to the author) based on the Peruvian The Shining Path terrorist group. (Bellatin was living in Peru at the time.) The Blind Poet is murdered by his wife when she finds him having sex with his nurse but the sect carries on, preaching and practising violence and austerity and preaching but not always practising celibacy.

Choi Jin-young : 해가 지는 곳으로 (To the Warm Horizon)

The latest addition to my website is Choi Jin-young‘s 해가 지는 곳으로 (To the Warm Horizon). This is the first full-blown pandemic novel I have read since covid but do not let that put you off as it is very good novel, first published in 2017. We follow a major pandemic – people often die within an hour of contracting it – and its effect on a few groups of people. In all cases the people flee Korea and end up in Russia, not entirely sure of where they are going but just going. It soon becomes apparent that the biggest problem is not the pandemic but the behaviour of people, men in particular, as brutal violence, rape and random killings are the norm, even by men who would have behaved responsibly pre-pandemic. Indeed, the only love that seems to work is romantic love, not involving men.

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