The pandemic has made philosophers of us all. Questions that were ignored or swept into the mind’s unattended corners have crept to the forefront. How will the future be different from the past? What risks are worth taking? Is solitude an endurable human condition?Such enquiries and more are at the heart of two short, dissimilar books by philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and novelist Zadie Smith, respectively. Both are mid-pandemic musings, written when the global crisis has yet to play itself out.Of the two, Lévy’s The Virus in the Age of Madness is more polemical, questioning our response to the coronavirus and referring to past thinkers and plagues to make scathing judgments. Smith’s Intimations, on the other hand, is a series of personal essays ranging over facets of her life just before and after the crisis washed over the world.Close For Lévy, responses to the virus are akin to a form of collective blindness, as in the José Saramago novel. “All across the planet, in the most impoverished lands no less than in the great metropolises, we have witnessed entire populations tremble and allow themselves to be driven into their dwellings, or sometimes clubbed in, like game into its burrow,” he thunders…. Read full this story
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