reality and fiction



The pandemic that has spread across our territory – from the capitals to the small towns in the interior – reveals itself to be a political condition that stems from the president’s mental morbidity

Unbelieving of its destiny, Brazil walked towards this tragedy of the pandemic. It was not without warnings: the world counted its dead, science disclosed the protocols to prevent the spread of contagion, while the country awaited events. Its president, always infected by denialism, demeaned science and common sense, disdained the seriousness of the disease. Today the scenario is bleak: hospital beds are at the limit of their capacity, health professionals face a stressful journey and thousands of bereaved families bury their dead without saying goodbye.

The arrogance, which is a characteristic of the current government, did not allow people to believe in the numbers. Everything was done to hide them, changing the time of publication and the methodology for counting the dead. It was not enough. Thanks to the circumstances, the government was no longer able to hide reality. Brazil accounts for about 50 deaths. You can't fight the numbers.

In Oran, the local administration behaved in the same way. This is a city in Algeria, which the French-Algerian writer Albert Camus (1913-1960) took as inspiration for his novel “The plague”, from 1947. In it, rats appear in the attics of houses and die in the streets. Then it's the citizens' turn to face their tragedy. The local city hall tries to hide the facts with the excuse, which has already become commonplace, of not promoting panic and disorder, however, day after day, the situation worsens, chaos prevails over order and terror takes over. of its inhabitants. Says the narrator: “From that moment on, it could be said that the plague became a common problem for all of us.”

Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, Camus is a philosopher, playwright and novelist. The narrator, who only reveals his identity at the end of the novel, begins by describing the city of Oran – today one of the most important in Algeria – and the life of its citizens who lived from trade and occupied themselves “in the first place, according to the its own expression, of doing business.”

The author did extensive research on the plague, which appears at different times in human history, however, he had a real model to guide his literary work: the city of Oran suffered a very intense typhus epidemic, during the years of 1941-1942, which wiped out about thirty percent of its population.

A pandemic like the one we are experiencing now imposes a harsh reality on its inhabitants, and this requires a constant psychological balance to transform a range of possibilities – real or imaginary – into events that trigger exchanges and affections, capable of rekindling their individual or collective conditions. . The natural tendency, on the contrary, is to be captured by feelings ranging from sadness to melancholy, or even depression.

In addition to objective descriptions of reality, Camus's perception is very keen in the sense of unraveling what goes on in the hearts and minds of individuals affected by the plague: “At that moment, the collapse of courage, will and patience was so sudden that it seemed to them that they could never get off that precipice.”

In this short passage, he highlights three feelings that collapse – courage, without which everything flows into small abysses; the will, by which we position ourselves before a real or purely imaginary fact, and which, in this sense, resembles freedom; and patience, which demands from the individual the dialogue with the world, albeit without words, and the intuition of the exact time to trigger his way out of conflict situations.

It's not a small thing, but it seems to be a portrait of what we are seeing and experiencing during the pandemic. Our freedoms have suffered a cut, to the point that some claim the constitutional right to come and go to diverge from social isolation. Now, where there are rights, there are also duties. As the well-known maxim says: "One person's freedom ends where another's begins."

These limitations require common sense in dealing with reality, and psychological balance, in a daily life that has changed and has always remained the same. As Camus well observed in his narrative, under such circumstances, people “floated more than they lived.”

an uncertain future

Camus' work is seen as a metaphor for Nazi domination in occupied France, the country where he lived. The author was part of the French Resistance, when he met the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Although some associate him with existentialist philosophy, his literary production is seen as an aesthetic of the absurd.

The plague transforms all coexistence into absurdity, into the meaninglessness of human acts, even those with the best intentions. This is how the doctor Bernard Rieux, central character of the novel, sees all his efforts to save lives result in the counting of the dead. Gradually the plague transforms the city into a prison, those who wish to leave are not authorized to do so. There is no lack of escape attempts, including by shady means. On the side of good feelings, it can be said that there is always love beyond the gates of a city, whether in the pages of a novel or in reality.

Likewise, the pandemic, in addition to piling up corpses, prevents people from living together. Everyone becomes invisible. Those who fall ill are confined to hospitals closed to visitors, their loved ones lose personal contact. Just like the doctor and his assistants in Camus's novel, in real life there is a great effort by health teams to save lives and offer dignity to patients. Brazilians from all states have shown their gratitude for the commitment of these professionals. However, the president, in this dramatic moment, preferred to spread discord, as he has done throughout this crisis. Now he suggested that people record images inside hospitals and make complaints against the misuse of public money.

The pandemic that has spread in our territory – from the capitals to the small towns in the interior – reveals itself to be a political condition that stems from the president's mental morbidity. Without compassion for the lives lost, he disowned science and encouraged the indiscipline of the population against the social isolation that researchers around the world recommend.

The pandemic puts our calm in check, we have to wait – always longer – and believe in a future where everything is uncertain.

At the end of the novel, Camus observes that in some individuals, "the plague had rooted a deep skepticism that they could not break free." But among Brazilians, due to their heritage of violence and inequality, perhaps because of the sun, we need to bet on hope.

*Marcio Salgado, journalist and writer, is the author of the novel The Philosopher of the Desert (Multifoco, 2017).


CAMUS, Albert. The plague. Record, 2020. 28th edition. Translation: Valerie Runjanek


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