Pandemic Literature – About the virus and what it is doing to society

The first gripping book

Chinese writer Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary was released in May. A gripping book. In it, she interweaves her personal experience of the lockdown in Wuhan with a kind of deep section of Chinese society. Loving towards ordinary people. No illusions as far as the political class in the country is concerned.

Fang Fang: “Wuhan Diary”
Translation by Michael Kahn-Ackermann
Hoffman and Campe, 2020
352 pages, 25 euros

The quick shots

“Corona”, a story by Martin Meyer, is unfortunately a hasty shot. An aging bookseller keeps his head above water by reading proven epidemic literature during the quarantine. The black spider, the plague, Death in Venice – not very original.

Martin Meyer: “Corona” (story)
No & Buts, 2020
208 pages, 20 euros

“The Crown of Creation” by Lola Randl also glides along the surface. At least it’s written in a nice way. The author mixes thematic set pieces such as city dwellers practicing country life, escalating virus fears and a zombie story and summarizes it in tiny chapters with a laconic, self-deprecating tone. Nevertheless, when reading it, one does not necessarily have the feeling that the book can withstand the force of this pandemic.

Lola Randl: “The Crown of Creation” (story)
Matthes & Seitz, 2020
214 pages, 18 euros

Who negotiate the democratic handling

In “This is how the world has become” Marlene Streeruwitz works with a protagonist who is similar to her. A writer who suddenly faces a mental crash in lockdown without readings and income. But her character has a keen interest in the world and is thinking intensely about the crisis and its political consequences.

Marlene Streeruwitz: “This is how the world became” (novel)
Bahoe Books, 2020
208 pages, 19 euros

Zadie Smith does a similar thing in her Corona essays. She relies on quick, hard cuts between private epidemic reflections and politics. For example, when she takes on another virus sweeping through American society: the virus of contempt.

“With this particular virus,” she writes, “patient zero four hundred years ago stood aboard a slave ship, looked down at the groaning mass below decks, and realized they were just the type of person to wear chains.”

Zadie Smith: “Reflections – Corona Essays”
Translation by Tanja Handels
Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2020
80 pages, 7.99 euros (e-book)

And then of course there are also exciting essay collections, books like “The Corona Society” and “Beyond Corona” from the transcript publishing house. From a historical and sociological perspective, these texts ask which economy, social structures and narratives this virus affects.

The lateral thinker theses

The best known is of course the book “Corona False Alarm” by Sucharit Bhakdi and Karina Reiss. In order to prove that we are dealing with a harmless flu, they hit us with numbers and calculations – for laypeople it is not at all understandable.

But the tone speaks for itself. Lots of exclamation marks, insinuations and scolding from colleagues. In the end, they go so far as to claim that the political class in Germany now wants to set up a regime like that in China. That tastes a lot like lateral thinkers.

Sucharit Bhakdi and Karina Reiß: “Corona false alarm? Numbers, data and background”
Goldegg Verlag 2020
160 pages, 15 euros

Of course, there are a number of books from this camp that hit the drum hard. “Caution Dictatorship” by Stefan Schubert, for example – the flu idea mixed with xenophobia and popular front thinking.

Kopp-Verlag publishes these right-wing Corona books, one after the other. Incidentally, he does not send out review copies. At this publishing house there is neither a contact person for the press nor any answer at all to a journalistic inquiry.

Stefan Schubert: “Beware of dictatorship”
Koepp, 2020
320 pages, 22.99 euros

The health policy perspective

“CoronaEthik” by Andreas Brenner was published in August, a text that shows where there is currently a risk of crossing ethical boundaries. But without excitement, without wild accusations; but out of the attitude: Even in a crisis, there must be room to differentiate. That hits the nerve these days very well.

Andreas Brenner: “CoronaEthics – A Case of Global Responsibility?”
Koenigshausen and Neumann, 2020
110 pages, 14.80 euros

The book “The Lost Patient” puts the healthcare system to the test as a whole. A doctor vividly tells what the thorough economization of the health care system is doing and how people in the health care system have been working beyond any limit for a long time.

Umes Arunagirinathan, Doris Mendlewitsch: “The Lost Patient – ​​How the Health Business Makes Us Sick”
Rowohlt, 2020
224 pages, 16 euros

Corona from a religious perspective

From a religious perspective, there is rather little on the subject. The indefatigable Anselm Grün has presented a book and walks on the borderline between encouraging advice and looking at the deeper needs of this world, such as global warming or refugee flows.

Anselm Grün: “What a good life is – Orientation in challenging times”
Herder, 2020
256 pages, 22 euros

Then of course there is the quasi-religious trend researcher Matthias Horx, who has expanded his viral essay “The World After Corona” into a book. An incredibly optimistic vision of the future: the crisis is transforming us into a new solidarity: value-based, creative, local-global-digital.

He doesn’t investigate the question of why we haven’t been living in this wonderful paradise for a long time. To paraphrase Mark Twain, who meant a different book: It has a lot to do with printed chloroform.

Matthias Horx: “The future after Corona – How a crisis changes society, our thinking and our actions”
Economist, 2020
144 pages, 15 euros