South Africa: How to Write a Plague Diary


Forget the novel you've been hankering to write: what you should be working on is the next great plague diary.

A number of writers are encouraging their online followers to use their lockdown time for finally starting the novel they've always wanted to write. I think this is a mistake. To me, it's clear that the literary form you should be working in, if indeed you can muster the concentration to write during this time, is that of the plague diary. And to judge by the great plague diaries of posterity, you have between now and, say, August - call it next February at the outside - to really nail your contribution to the genre.

This is because plague diaries, unlike normal diaries, dry up: they end when the plague does. Further, you mustn't pin your hopes on enjoying any fame that comes your way because of your literary efforts: plague diaries are ideally kept out of sight for a generation or three. There's a reason for this, which those who write the diaries may not be aware of. The point of a plague diary is not to serve as a warning: writing can be prophetic, but never prophylactic, though...

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