As we end our class with the novel,Zone One, I found some interesting and significant quotes from the book that we can contemplate on. Here is the 1min video clip that you can view to see these quotes. While I was looking at these quotes, I was reminded of one of the lines in the last passage in the novel that we read during the last day of the class:
Let the cracks between things widen until they are no longer cracks but the new places for things.
It just made me to think that the end of our semester/ end of our contagion class is not the end, but the opening for the awaiting next new semester/ using of our knowledge that we gained from Contagion in other new areas like the “cracks that are no longer cracks but the new places for things.” It is similar to how the season of winter ends and spring begins.
Other than the quotes, I found a very short book trailer for this novel! While I’ve seen many movie trailers, I have never seen a book trailer. So, I thought you guys might also be interested to watch this trailer!
Here’s also a video, in which Whitehead talks about his novel.
This is an interesting review of the novel by Harris!
Lastly, as we discussed that people are being “zombified” (those who continue doing the mundane work, who are stuck in daily routines or rituals, etc.), I was reminded of many Koreans using the subway to go to work. The subway is ridiculously crowded especially on weekdays at about 8am and 6pm (the times when the workers go to work and leave work respectively) in Korea.
Can you think of any event or moment that reminds of people being or looking zombified in your country? I thought this would be interesting to share! 🙂
p.s. Thank you, Prof. Waterman and guys! I really enjoyed Contagion a lot! This is the best class I’ve taken during my 1st year of college! 😀
For this post, I prepared two things: an interview with Charles Burns and a Black Hole Movie! 🙂
Did you know that Charles Burns is very interested in mutations? There were reasons why he was inspired by mutations. Also, remember that this comic book is quite rich with symbols? In this interview, Burns briefly talks about symbolism:
So it’s as symbolic as it is anything else.
Yeah. In Black Hole, there’s not one symptom of the Teen Plague. It’s very unique for each character. So, you have Chris – who is one of the main characters – who is literally slipping out of her skin like a snake. You know, when you are at that age you are trying to reinvent yourself, and you are trying to slip out of your life, and transform into something else.
There are more interesting questions and answers in this interview. Check it out!
Moreover, I found a video on this comic book! It’s quite short (11minutes). Try watching it! Video
Hey guys! Usually, whenever I finish a book, I tend to search about the author of the book. I’m actually not one of the augmenters for this novel, Nemesis,but I thought it would be nice to share what I found about the author of the novel, Roth. Did you guys know that he is actually a very famous American-Jewish writer? He twice received the National Book Award, twice the National Book Critics Circle award, and PEN/Faulkner Award three times. He won a Pulitzer Prize and even a Man Booker International Prize and many other more! Did you also know that Nemesis was his final novel? I’ll attach three links, in which Roth talks aboutNemesis, his perspective on religion, and etc.
Roth’s perspective on religion and God – I am a Christian; so, when the novel dealt with some religious aspects, I was interested to know the author’s point of view on religion. I tried to find a video, in which Roth talks about his belief on religion in depth but couldn’t find one. While this is a very short clip (1 minute! very short! don’t be afraid! haha), I think it concisely summarizes his perspective towards religion and God. At the end of the clip, he says something quite debatable (something interesting to ponder about).
Interview with Roth – Nemesis is the novel that “lays out most clearly [Roth’s] own vision of existence.” He talks about his belief on the relationship between luck and life. You also get to know why he chose “polio” in writing the novel. Through this interview, you can know more about Roth, his works, and views!
Sinha’s Animal’s People is a novel that is composed of a collection or a series of tapes recorded by a 19 year old boy, the protagonist of the novel identifies himself as an “Animal.” He does not really remember the days before the horrible incident caused by the poisonous smoke and chemical leakage in the Kampani’s factory, resulting in many diseases and death of people living in Khaufpur. One of the victims of “that night” (4) incident is the protagonist, Animal. He got the disease at the age of six. He “could not even stand up straight. Further, further, forward [he] was bent. When the smelting in [his] spine stopped the bones had twisted like a hairpin, the highest part of [him] was [his] arse” (15). Ever since then, Animal was teased and called, “‘Animal, jungle Animal!’” (16) by other kids and recognized that he was different from the normal people in appearance, differentiating himself from others and calling oneself, “Animal,” and therefore, going through an identity struggle.
Identity is one of the major themes in Sinha’s novel. From the very beginning of the novel, Animal addresses the issue of his identity: “I used to be human once. So I’m told. I don’t remember it myself, but people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet just like a human being” (1). In this first statement, he says “used to be,” signifying that he no longer sees himself as a human after his appearance got distorted. The fact that Animal convinces himself to be viewed as an animal is evidently portrayed in the novel, especially in the earlier part of it. He says, “I no longer want to be human” (1). The following conversation between Zafar and Animal illustrate that Animal does not really know his origin and identifies himself as “Animal:”
“What’s your real name?”
“Animal’s a nickname, na? I mean your born name.”
“I don’t know.”
“My name is Animal,” I say. “I’m not a fucking human being, I’ve no wish to be one.” (23)
The conversation above suggests that Animal has convinced himself not to be viewed as a human. While he is a human being, he denies his human nature and calls himself “Animal.” Do you think Animal is trying to run away from reality by seeing himself as Animal? Doesn’t this remind you of Walsingham who created the feast during the plague?
Animal’s identity struggle is further explored later in the novel, during the conversation between him and Zafar and Farouq, Animal says,
Zafar and Farouq have this in common, I should cease thinking of myself as an animal and become human again. Well, maybe if I’m cured, otherwise I’ll never do it and here’s why, if I agree to be a human being, I’ll also have to agree that I’m wrong-shaped and abnormal. But let me be a quatre pattes animal, four-footed and free, then I am whole, my own proper shape, just a different kind of animal from say Jara, or a cow, or a camel.
“I’m the only on there is of this type.”
“You pretend to be an animals so you can escape the responsibility of being human,” Farouq carries on.
“And I’m an animal, why?” I retorted. “By my choice or because others name me Animal and treated me like one?”
“You’re well enough looked after now,” says Farouq. “We are your friends. … To be accepted as a human being, you must behave like one. The more human you act, the more human you’ll be.” (206-208)
Do you agree with Zafar and Farouq that Animal should see himself as a human being? What does it really mean to be a human? What is the difference between a human and an animal? What does the title of the novel, “Animal’s People,” suggest about identity and difference between men and animals? Moreover, what makes and creates one’s identity? Is identity inborn, shaped by one’s experiences, or determined by other people’s point of view? (We asked this question in FYD, remember? ;))
Other than calling himself, Animal, due to his appearance, it is significant to note that he does not know his origin. While he was given a name when he was in the orphanage, he claims that he does not remember his born name. In order to understand one’s identity, it is crucial for one to know where one originates from. This seems to be a recurring theme in many novels. Even before the conversation between Zafar and Animal, Animal talks about his origin:
On that night I was found lying in a doorway, child of a few days, wrapped in a shawl. Whose was I? Nobody knew. Mother, father, neighbours, all must have died for no living soul came to claim me, who was coughing, frothing etc. plus nearly blind, where my eyes had screwed themselves against the burning fog were white slits bleached on the eyeballs. (14)
Not knowing his parents influences Animal to undergo inner struggle. While he shows hatred toward being called a human, the inner side of him illustrates that he yearns to be a human being, creating further inner struggle. This is explicitly seen when he desires and regains hope to stand on two legs when Elli, the American doctor comes and builds a health laboratory or clinic.
Another important aspect of this novel is the languages that it is composed of. The characters of this novel all speak different languages: English, Hindi, French and in some cases we could consider the sounds of nature as a language of its own. All these languages were combined in one novel for the Eyes to read. What is the purpose of this combination? To start with, the editor explains (at the beginning of the novel) that some idioms could not be translated into English, and that is why French is used throughout the text. And, since the story is based in India then it would make sense why Hindi is used. But, what if the combination of languages has an implicit meaning? It might be that, what has happened in Khaufpur was the responsibility of global governments? Language is also strongly linked to identity, the French nun (Ma Franci) forgot all the languages she has learned other than her mother tongue. On another note, Animal is taught different languages. He he could understand the language of nature, and is taught other languages to blend in the community. Why does the author incorporate different languages? How does language affect one’s identity?
Along with all the language spoken throughout the novel, Animal seems to hear voices. These voices that are trapped in his head do not only speak to him, but also influence his actions and tell him the future. Surprisingly, Animal doesn’t see his situation as a problem; he embraces it. This is depicted when the French nun takes him to the doctor, and he asks the doctors about the possibility of walking on two legs rather than mentioning the voices. At that momment, he meets and speaks to Kha-in-the-jar. Are the voices Animal is hearing real or is he suffering from a mental illness? To what extent do these voices influence Animal’s actions?
Another significant theme of the novel is justice. The novel is not only the first book where the victims are not victims of a biological disease but a chemical one, but we are, also, informed of the group that is responsible for the cause of this plague. We know who is to blame for the cause of this story that Animal narrates; it is the Kampani factory and its workers. All the people of Khaufpur want justice. Zafar is the leader of their hope for justice. He is battling an on-going case of eighteen years in the courts against the Kampani group. Zafar is the symbol of hope for the people of Khaufpur. They trust that under his guidance, they will be compensated for the effects that they have lived with from that night. However, Zafar knows that the Kampani group has more power, connections and resources on their side but he still keeps his thoughts positive. He says,
“Friends, the Kampani sitting in Amrika has everything on its side, money powerful friends and the government and military, expensive lawyers, political masseurs, public relations men. We people have nothing, many of us haven’t an untorn shirt to wear, many of us go hungry, we have no money for lawyer and PR, we have no influential friends… The Kampani and its friends seek to wear us down with a long fight, but they don’t understand us, they’ve never come up against people like us before… having nothing means we have nothing to lose. So you see, armed with the power of nothing we are invincible, we are bound to win.” (54)
The people of Khaufpur had tremendous faith in Zafar and they knew that he could bring them justice. He reassured them with his actions and his devotion towards them. Should the people of Khaufpur have so much faith in one person or should they take justice into their own hands? What does justice mean to the people of Khaufpur? Do they really want justice or is a dream that Zafar has convinced everyone to believe in?
Ma Franci on the other hand does not believe that the cause of the night was the Kampani factory. She believes that it was the hand of god. She says, “this is his work, he’s up and running again, this time there’ll be no stopping him.” Animal thinks that Ma Franci is crazy to think that god would have this happen to his people. But Animal also does not like this god figure that Ma Franci refers to because he is always silent. Ma Franci thinks that the end of the world had begun that night but Animal tells us, “Sanjo was wrong. F****** world didn’t end. It’s still suffering” (64). Is it fair for the people of Khaufpur to suffer like this? What can be done to reduce the effects of the aftermath of the poisoning that occurred on that night?
The ideas about identity, languages and voices, and justice are discussed throughout the novel. They all influence the actions of individuals and their beliefs regarding the cause of the chemical incident. We hope that we have provided interesting questions to discuss. Hope you guys enjoy the reading and the post!
p.s. We found an interesting video about the novel!
(Can you embed this again pls professor? Thank you. :))
In previous class, we ended our discussion with a conversation on fate. We somehow reached to an idea or a conclusion that the definition of fate differs from an individual to another individual. So, I thought that it would be interesting to see how fate is defined and analyzed in philosophical perspectives. The simple definition of fate from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is as follows:
: the will or principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do :destiny
a : final outcomeb : the expected result of normal development <prospective fate of embryonic cells>c : the circumstances that befall someone or something <did not know thefate of her former classmates>
pluralcapitalized: the three goddesses who determine the course of human life in classical mythology
Other than the literal definition, I found three articles that explore the idea of fatalism:
I also think knowing the author will help to have a better understanding of the novel. Here’s a short biography of Phaswane Mpe. I also recommend you guys reading the introduction section of the book if you didn’t. :))
While I was researching interesting things related to the novel, “Pale Horse Pale Rider,” I came across some articles that this novel was somehow autobiographical. It said:
“It simply divided my life, cut across it like that. So that everything before that was just getting ready, and after that I was in some strange way altered, really,” said Katherine Anne Porter about her nearly fatal encounter with the Spanish flu. “It took me a long time to go out and live in the world again.” Years later, in a thinly disguised autobiographical novel, she laid out not just her own traumatic run-in with death, the pale rider, but also a rare literary account of the 1918 flu pandemic in the United States and the unprecedented human loss.
Like the setting in the novel, Katherine Anne Porter has lived in the early 1900s. During World War I, Porter was a reporter in Denver, where she met a lieutenant, whom she fell in love with. Furthermore, “Pale Horse Pale Rider”is a short story that reflects her experience during World War I, when the dreadful Spanish flu killed about 30 million people. Porter, herself, also was diagnosed with the 1918 flu pandemic, which nearly killed her. While generally, it is important to know the author’s biography in order to enhance our understanding of the novels or writings that the author wrote, I think knowing the biography of Porter is very interesting and significant because “Pale Horse Pale Rider” is an account of her life experience in 1918. These are three short biographies of Porter, which you can take a look at. Two of them relate mention somethings about the novel itself too: Biography1, Biography2, and Biography3.
I also thought that having some knowledge on Spanish Flu is crucial too because our course is “Contagion.” 🙂 This link is an article that gives an overview of the influenza. And, here are two short video clips that you can watch about the 1918 flu pandemic:
As we continue to read and contemplate on the topic of contagion, in A Feast During the Plague, we see different responses of people to the plagues or diseases. But, it is interesting to note that there is a common recurrent reaction to the plague among the books we have read or discussed. In Pushkin’s A Feast During the Plague, while a dreadful loathsome plague continues to spread and kill the people in the village, interestingly, Walsingham (the Chairman) and others feast, similar to that of Solnit’s Paradise Built in Hell and that of Boccaccio’s Decameron. In the latter novel, the seven young women and three men leave the plagued city; on their journey, they choose a leader or a Queen who suggests each one of them to tell a story to entertain themselves. As already observed in the title of the play, some questions linger.
What is the significance of the feast during the plague? Why do people feast while their beloved ones are dying out there? Is it justifiable to be happy or feast while there are people suffering and dying? Just like in Decameron, are they trying to avoid the dreadful situation? Is it possible that Walsingham and others are trying to create a microcosm, through which they can escape the sad unwanted reality?
In the middle of the play, Walsingham sings and directly states the purpose of the feast during the plague. While questioning himself through singing what they can do, he says,
Old Man Winter we’ve beat back;
That’s how we’ll meet the Plague’s attack!
We’ll light the fire and fill the cup
And pass it round– a merry scene! (150-153)
These lines of Walsingham demonstrate that they, especially Walsingham himself, are trying to forget the current horrible wretched situation caused by the plague by mirthfully feasting or by creating a microcosm, the feast to escape reality. However, is it really possible to escape the reality? Pushkin questions the readers if it’s worth a try to avoid the horrible sickly situation. Through the appearance of the Priest near the end, Pushkin suggests that it is useless to avoid reality; one should confront the reality. This is illustrated when the Priest chastises and questions Walsingham for feasting while his beloved ones and others are dead. Eventually, because of the Priest, Walsingham again goes through the pain of agony. He is lost in contemplation, neither repenting nor reveling. The Chairman’s contemplation also leaves us, the readers, to also contemplate about question of facing or escaping of reality.
But, it is also interesting to note that while Walsingham tried to avoid the reality, throughout the play, it seems that he was not able to. Even from the very beginning of the play, the people in the feast are reminded of one of their friends, Jackson, who’s dead due to the plague. This irony of facing the plague while they try to escape through the feast is also seen when Walsingham asks Mary to sing “something sad and haunting, / To make us turn again to our merrymaking” (28-29). Mary’s song is a juxtaposition of the past and the present situation, which is full of dreadful mournful details. Even though they are feasting, whether they realize it or not, the people in the feast have been actually still confronting the reality.
The plague is also seen as a “guest” (8) like in the Journal of the Plague. Remember when the word of “visited” was used in the novel? It is interesting to see that many writers compare the plague as a guest. Probably the guest is like an unwelcomed or unwanted guest. But in this play, it also seems that the plague is very powerful. It is compared to a queen: “Now Pestilence, that queen of dread, / In triumph rides among the dead” (144-145). Why does Pushkin compare the plague to a queen? Why to a female, not a king? Is there a gender issue confronted in this play?We think that this is also an interesting question to think about.
Religion plays a significant role in this play too. The novels we have read included a religious figure. In the play, Oedipus The King the priest stands by the people and the leader. He is portrayed, by Sophocles, as a respected figure in the community as he supported the ruling family. Although, the priest in A Feast During The Play held a prominent position he is not respected by the people. There is no doubt that both priests were wise and religious, but one was respected by the public more than the other. Why are these religious figures recurrent in the novels? What do they represent and what is their significance? We will attempt to explore these questions by examining the priest in A Feast During The Plague. He is considered to be the enemy since he showed up at the feast without being invited land rudely approached the young group in an attempt to stop their gathering. He did so by questioning their morality; how could they have a feast when their loved ones have passed away. He questions their grief by reminding some of them of how they responded when someone dear to them died. Perhaps, the priest is an extended metaphor of the young people’s conscience. The feast, to them, is an escape from the pain they are facing and plague of the city. The young men and women have tried to isolate themselves from the grief and to enjoy their time. However, their conscience (the priest) attempts to remind them of reality. The entrance of the priest whether literal or metaphorical signifies how different people from various generation grieve. The interaction between the two generation shows the change of ideas on the plague.
While it is significant to read Pushkin’s play, it is still important to make a comparison between Pushkin and Wilson in order to have a better understanding of the point of view of each author. When comparing these two pieces there were many similarities and differences. What the plays had in common was the use of prose and poetry to evoke emotion from the reader and the reference to the plague as a visitor. Before reading the play, it is quite obvious that the structure of the play is in prose however, when Mary sings and the chairman recites his poem, the authors keeps the use of poetry and the rhyming pattern. This shows that while the translation of the play may vary, the emotion that the author wants the audience to feel is the same. They both want their audience to feel the effects of the plague. Secondly, both authors keep the reference to the plague as a visitor in the translation. By doing this, they personify the plague and brings the plague to life as if it were another character in the play. This also adds to the emotional aspect of the play and makes the plague more tangible.
On the other hand, there were some differences; however, two differences that stood out the most were the title of the play and the language used. Wilson named the play The City of the Plague. This shows that Wilson wrote the play from the perspective of everyone in the city while Pushkin’s A Feast During the Plague title shows that he was only concerned with this feast that took place during the plague and what this feast meant. The language used was very different as well. Wilson, having published this play in 1816, wrote in an old English that, for modern readers, was quite hard to understand. Pushkin on the other hand adapted the play in Russian which was then translated to a modern English by Anderson as a contemporary writer. Both storylines were the same, but no extra meaning of the play was sacrificed based on the differences between these two piece of literature.
Hope we have made interesting points to talk about. Happy reading! :))
p.s. Even though it is in Russian, we thought that it is interesting to still post this video because this writing is a play, something we can watch. 🙂