The COVID-19 outbreak has sent worried people all across the world to stores, where they’re scooping up soap, hand sanitizers, and toilet paper at record rates. But in Japan, there’s another product that retailers are having trouble keeping in stock: Albert Camus’ novel The Plague.
Booksellers are scrambling to order more copies of the book, the Mainichi Shimbun reports.
The novel, written by the French philosopher in the 1940s, is about an Algerian town gripped by hysteria following an outbreak of the plague. The public first starts to panic when rats begin dying in the streets, then moves to full-blown paranoia when townspeople begin to get ill.
It’s possible to see eerie similarities between the novel and some communities that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“The public lacked, in short, standards of comparison,” Camus writes in the novel’s second part. “It was only as time passed and the steady rise in the death-rate could not be ignored that public opinion became alive to the truth.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Toward the end of the book, the author writes, “What we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.”
The newspaperreports that increased orders for the book from its Japanese publisher, Shinchosha, started to come in last month.
A representative for the publisher told the newspaper, “Some shops have ordered tens of copies. It’s clearly been influenced by the coronavirus.”
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.