The virus shattered the omnipotent image that man had created of himself

The epidemic is still spreading around the world.
Hundreds of millions of people are isolated at home, anxious daily in cramped quarters, hoping for better tomorrow.
Among these, the writer may be naturally adapted to the tens or even months of confinement, whose daily routine is to shut himself in his room and write.
During the period of isolation, they were also recording this period of history, this exceptional period of human daily life.
Dafang has joined hands with Thepaper.cn to invite famous writers from around the world to send their writings during the epidemic. So far, more than a dozen writers have received “notes on the epidemic”.
From the United States, Canada, Japan, Berlin, Ireland, Israel, Mozambique…
In this issue, mozambican writer Mia Coto sends her greetings.
Mia Coto tells us that for the vast majority of Mozambicans, isolation is painful because the informal economy is their way of life, and this requires daily movement of people.
During the epidemic, he reread Camus’s masterpiece, “The Plague,” as well as many books on viral biology and bats.
Mia Cotto believes the epidemic is a lesson in humility for all, and that it’s time for humanity to reflect on its baseless, deep-rooted arrogance.

Mia Couto is a Mozambican poet and novelist and a leading force in Portuguese literature in Africa today.
At the age of 14, he began to publish poems in newspapers and magazines. He has published more than 30 works and translated them into 23 languages. His first novel, The Land of Dreams, was selected as “the 12 Greatest African novels of the 20th century”.
In 2015, Jesus Christ was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Literature Prize, and in 2017, his latest work, Confessions of a Lioness, was shortlisted for the Dublin Literature Prize and is considered one of the strongest contenders for the Nobel Prize in recent years.
His pioneering fusion of Portuguese and Mozambican nationality gave African literature an unprecedented new vitality.
The Sleepwalking Land, Jesus Salem, and Confessions of a Lioness were published by Dafang in 2018.
Mia Coto on coVID-19
What was the state of your city during the COVID-19 epidemic?
How do people (especially family and friends who live with you) view the crisis and the changes in their lives?
Mia COttle: The first diagnosis here was almost two months ago, and now there are a total of 79 infections, none of which require hospitalization, and not one death.
Most African countries have rates like this, lower rates.
It is obviously too early to draw definitive conclusions, but what seems certain is that transmission mechanisms in Africa are different from those in the Northern hemisphere, at least so far.
We also need to be clear about what the reasons for this difference are and whether it only appears at an early stage.
As a result, Mozambique has not yet imposed similar travel restrictions.
It is also why the social and economic effects of isolation in our case, while severe, have not yet produced the tragic consequences of full isolation.
The global pandemic has forced people to stay at home, so many writers struggle to promote their work and meet their readers face to face.
Do you have a similar problem?
How has the epidemic affected your work?
Mia Cottle: As mentioned above, the restrictions in Mozambique are not as severe as in other countries.
First, it is because the epidemic here is not as severe as in other countries.
Second, it is also because we are doing our best to avoid social isolation paralyzing informal economic activity, as it involves a large part of the Mozambican population.
About two-thirds of the population depends on the sale of goods, most of which takes place on the streets, sidewalks and squares.
The current situation is grim for artists and writers.
The performances have been suspended and all cultural activities have been suspended.
No book launch or literary debate.
The Internet is the only medium of publicity.
But putting cultural events online is a new attempt to reach only the urban elite.
Do you keep in touch with your family and friends outside?
How is your social life going these days?
Mia Cottle: Families can still see each other as long as they follow the guidelines of wearing masks and social isolation.
Our family still gets together on Sundays.
But there have been fewer parties lately, and we’re ready to continue to see less of each other, whether it’s with family or friends.

The crisis first broke out in China and gradually spread around the world.
How have you changed your view of it in the process?
Mia Cotto: I’m sure no one could have foreseen that this would take the world by storm.
No one, not even the World Health Organization, can really imagine this.
In fact, no one in the world can claim to be an expert on new viruses.
Even now, most of what we think of it is speculation, and it needs to be corrected all the time.
We’re in uncharted territory, and that’s bad because it cost us so many lives, and because it caused panic.
On the plus side, it teaches us a lesson in humility.
Each of us has to admit how ignorant and powerless we are as a group in the face of a creature in an invisible dimension.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, which incident shocked you the most?
Can you share some moments of despair or hope?
Mia Cotto: My friends in Italy have told me dramatic stories of people who were completely alone in hospital, even on their deathbed.
Many of them were elderly, and they experienced slow suffocation, a pain that could not be overcome.
They seem to be drowning in air, with no one to comfort them.
This dehumanization process from person to patient is a terrible emotional burden.
My friends later learned that their loved ones had died and that only two relatives were present when they were buried.
I think of the suffering these elderly people suffer and how they are denied the opportunity to share their last moments with others.
I need to digress here.
When it was suggested that pangolins might be an intermediate host for the epidemic, I was reminded of the illegal trade in animals, which is one of the links that connects Mozambique with China and other Asian countries.
It is time to put an end to this evil trade.
It is time for countries affected by the shameful nature of the illegal animal trade to act together to address the problem, indeed and quickly.
Now let’s talk about one exciting thing.
I am a member of the Scientific and Technological Committee advising the Government of Mozambique.
One day, a group of quacks knocked on our door.
They call themselves “traditional doctors” and want to talk to us.
Here’s what they say: “We know nothing about this disease. Our ancestors (who are our gods) didn’t know about this creature.
Please tell us what we should do.”
I was struck by their humility and willingness to follow a different logic.

Look at the global crisis as a writer. What do you find?
Has the crisis inspired you to write?
Mia Cottle: As a writer and a citizen of the world, I’ve always been concerned with the subject of fear.
Even before this outbreak, fear weaving was a global operation that “invited” us to obey and “invited” us to give up becoming citizens.
It’s just that in these days of the epidemic, fear manifests itself in a rare way: we all fear the same things.
There is a common enemy that threatens the entire human race.
There is a positive side to this common condition: we recognize no borders, but we are a family, all working for the same cause.
But there is another side that can be exploited by careerists: what they seek is a culprit, a scapegoat, and it is always the other.
Such an attempt to invent an enemy would make me sad.
Major social crises often lead to military conflicts.
Unfortunately, some would see war as a solution to a social crisis of this magnitude.
In other words, fear has reached a level of global tragedy.
That’s mostly because we didn’t write the script, we didn’t direct it, we didn’t write it.
We do not know who is attacking us. The aggressors do not speak our language and do not listen to our orders.
The virus has shattered the ancient arrogance that has led us to believe that we are masters and commander-in-chief of the process of life.
We are lost, we have to admit, we don’t know how to understand, let alone how to predict.
A species has been discovered in the so-called center of the universe, collectively discovering our vulnerability.
The fear we face is not just of a virus, but of the almost divine omnipotence to which humanity has built itself over the centuries, and which we now dread to discover we do not fit.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, most people tend to get their information from the West.
Can you share some of the voices from Africa?
Will Africans be calmer and more experienced in dealing with COVID-19, given their previous ebola crisis?
In the face of these two outbreaks, have you seen any change in the response or perception of the African people?
Mia Coto: There was a letter circulating on social media that was signed by 100 African writers and intellectuals like Soyinka.
The letter stressed the need to find comprehensive answers to the crisis that go beyond medical questions and beyond replicating the responses found in first world countries.
The world should force us to reflect on the unreliability of today’s ruling system and on the production and distribution of wealth.
The “aid” that was given to us imposed many political conditions, such as slimming down the state and reducing its state ownership.
It is time to rethink all this.
When we fought colonialism, our slogan was “Independence or death, we shall prevail”.
But we’re only half way there.
We are still not economically independent.
We need to believe in the value of cooperation within the African continent.
With regard to Mozambique, one of the things that we are very fortunate in is that the outbreak started relatively late, with the first confirmed case just over a month ago.
We are therefore in a position to learn from the lessons of others, whether they come from Europe, Asia or Africa.
From a very early age, we didn’t want to copy the strategies of other countries.
We know the social and economic consequences of shutting down the city can be devastating.
We also know that there is no experience to draw from in this regard.
Even within African countries, there are huge social, cultural and developmental disparities.
For example, Ebola never reached Mozambique, but we have suffered from malaria and AIDS.
One advantage is that the vast majority of our population has been vaccinated against TB.
At the same time, during the period of socialism, we had the initial experience to build a national health system, and the idea was to serve the poorest people.

Many people say that isolation makes them spend more time reading. Do you have a similar feeling?
Could you share a book you read recently?
Mia Cottle: We need to understand that there are many kinds of isolation.
For the vast majority of Mozambicans, isolation has been a painful time because the informal economy is their way of life, and this requires daily movement of people.
I belong to the so-called elite class, and my isolation is relative and luxurious.
I can read and write every day.
I reread Camus’ masterpiece, The Plague.
But the direction I read the most is about virus biology and bats.
I’m a biologist, and I think we have to rethink our global priorities.
We humans are neither at the top nor at the center.
In the course of the planet’s life, viruses and bacteria are more important than we are, and we can be replaced.
We know that in the future there will be other novel Coronavirus epidemics.
We also know that species like bats would be a perfect repository for those disease pandemics.
But even though bats are a third as diverse as mammals and a quarter as numerous, how much research has been done on them?
Until recently, we didn’t know that bats developed special immune mechanisms to protect them from disease and from the chain reactions that kill humans.
We need to study bats and viruses more.
But what we need most of all is to take humanity away from the center.
The world doesn’t revolve around us.
Much of the difficulty in understanding the status quo stems from human arrogance, which is baseless but deeply rooted.
Not so long ago, we thought viruses were just appendages, growths.
But viruses and bacteria are the great conductors of life, the chief tailors of biological evolution.

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