A few years after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez published his novel Love in the Time of Cholera. Years earlier, the Swedish doctor Axel Munthe, who came to Naples in 1884 to treat the victims of a cholera epidemic, wrote his Letters From A Mourning City. In both cases, an epidemic caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae is the background for deeply human stories (imaginary in Márquez’s novel and real in Munthe’s letters). Márquez and Munthe invite us to contemplate how it is possible to live “in the time” of an epidemic, as involuntary witnesses of human suffering, eager to help the most needy and aware of the risks of contagion.
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