Friday, 13th August

This is my last message till Tuesday 31st August: these next two weeks, I’ll be helping my father publish his first novel!

1. An interesting account in The Conversation from Christopher Smith of St Andrew’s University of how humankind has responded to previous plagues and pandemics through history, Plagues and classical history – what the humanities will tell us about COVID in years to come

In fifth century Athens, for example, “some Athenians were dutiful in caring for others, which usually led to death, but many simply gave up, or they ignored family or the dead, or they chased pleasure of every kind in what time was left to them”.

2. More on plagues: a review by Dwight Garner for the New York Times of three books about disease “As a genre, disease and illness memoirs are permanently interesting if honest and sharply observed. The writer is dealt a joker from the pack. It’s an excuse to open a life for examination, now with a flame-burst of urgency.” (Hope this link works; you may need to register.)

3. It was Fred D’Aguiar’s name that caught my eye. His book, Year of Plagues, is being launched by Carcanet Press next Wednesday, 18th August, at 19:00 UK time. Strictly speaking, ineligible for this message as it costs £2 to join; more info and registration here

Here’s an ever-so-slightly out-of-date page on Fred from our Literature Department with a free poem, Stone and Shell, at the end: I used a stone to pound a shell.// I pounded it to smithereens // Then ground it into dust. // Now the shell is hushed, // I weigh the stone against the dust.

4. And, finally, this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival opens tomorrow Still plenty of time to book – all free – and lots of good stuff for children that your students (or your children!) might enjoy, too.

This one with Jeffrey Boakye, available from tomorrow, looks good

as does this one with Jenny Erpenbeck at 10:15 tomorrow

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