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Culture Express : In search of lost time

【明報專訊】Medical history and novels having to do with diseases have attracted people's attention. Perhaps they are nothing more than literary gimmicks used by critics or booksellers, but there are indeed striking similarities between some literary works and what people are facing these days.

Dr Juvenal Urbino, one of the main characters in Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, studies with Professor Adrien Proust, a renowned epidemiologist and Marcel Proust's father. Urbino returns to his country and what he observes might touch a chord with you. He smells the stench of the market while he is still out at sea and sees the rats in the sewers and the children rolling naked in the puddles on the streets. A disease expert, he knows very well how the tragedy occurs but is certain that it will be repeated at any moment. It is many epidemiologists' hope that people believe more in science.

Some think it is perhaps part of the Western culture that humans should not give up their basic freedoms even in the midst of a pandemic, and China's draconian lockdowns are a reflection of a more efficient system. But bear in mind that Adrien Proust, a Frenchman, was the first to propose an international version. He called a lockdown a cordon sanitaire, which literally means a sanitary line. However, the measure was not welcomed at that time.

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■Text: Staff Reporter

Photo: AFP

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