Praise Be to the Plague?
Logos (Russian Federation)
Among the various human attitudes toward a pandemic, along with fear, despair and anger, there is also an urge to praise the catastrophe or imbue it with some sort of hope. In 2020 such hopes were voiced in the stream of all the other COVID-19 reactions and interpretations in the form of predictions of imminent social, political or economic changes that may or must be brought on by the pandemic, or as calls to "rise above" the common human sentiment and see the pandemic as some sort of
... -necessary bitter pill to cure human depravity or social disorganization. Is it really possible for a plague of any kind to be considered a relief? Or perhaps a just punishment? In order to assess the validity of such interpretations, this paper considers the artistic reactions to the pandemics of the past, specifically the images of the plague from Alexander Pushkin's play Feast During the Plague, Antonin Artaud's essay "The Theatre and the Plague" and Albert Camus's novel The Plague. These works in different ways explore an attitude in which a plague can be praised in some respect. The plague can be a means of self-overcoming and purification for both an individual and for society. At the same time, Pushkin and Camus, each in his own way and by different means, show the illusory nature of that attitude. A mass catastrophe can reveal the resources already present in humankind, but it does not help either the individual or the society to progress.