Monday, October 25

The coronavirus, the editorial ‘boom’ that is just around the corner | Culture

Inside the Antonio Machado bookstore, in Madrid, last Wednesday.
Inside the Antonio Machado bookstore, in Madrid, last Wednesday.Fernando Alvarado / EFE

The world has withdrawn on itself to combat the pandemic while COVID-19 expands and contracts throughout the territories, putting health and morgues to the limit. The coronavirus has reduced our universe, it has occupied our voids and concerns, it has triggered our anxiety, it has interfered with the present and has darkened the future. He backs off, but his threat continues to advance. It has established a zero moment that prompts questions and demands answers in all areas. The reaction in the publishing world has not been long in coming. Various authors have urgently undertaken the publication of books related to the moment: as dissemination, against misinformation, as social reflection in a dead time that invites us to rethink positions or as creation.

That of Professor Wang Zhou, head of medicine at the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was the first book published in Spain at the end of March to help prevent and combat covid-19. In Coronavirus Prevention Manual (Alienta Editorial, Grupo Planeta), the author, experienced in the forefront of the epicenter of the pandemic, brings together the experience of Chinese doctors who faced the first onslaught of the disease. Based on scientific evidence, Zhou proposes a hundred tips to save life. The book, currently accessible in digital format, tries to answer basic questions related to the pandemic.

The covid-19 pandemic is hitting us now and will leave significant consequences. Disinformation has been in the making for a long time, only now it has become a major issue

Deborah Garcia Bello

A similar initiative has been carried out in Spain by the journalist Arantxa Castaño and the health disseminator Marian García, who have published the book 123 questions about coronavirus, available for free on the internet in PDF format. It is an accumulated outreach work on the pandemic since January 22 and is nourished by the contribution of fifty health professionals, scientists and other specialists. Along the same pedagogical line, the Coruña-based chemistry and science communicator Deborah García Bello (36 years old) has just published, also in electronic format, Do not touch. Science against disinformation in the covid-19 pandemic (Paidos).

García Bello’s work provides answers from science to combat the misinformation that accompanies the pandemic. The author does a deep didactic exercise, marks the differences between microbes, viruses and bacteria; between covid-19 (the disease) and coronavirus (the virus that causes it); lists the symptoms, the routes of spread and contagion, the types of masks; how to apply hygiene at home and what are the treatments against the coronavirus… A series of proposals supported by research and always with the decisive purpose of “unmasking anti-science disguised as a magic treatment”.

“This was a key moment for scientific dissemination,” says García Bello via email, stressing that his book is “a plea in defense of basic science” and not limited to the conjuncture: “It will be useful now and in the future”. He considers that we are suffering from “two pandemics”: one is disease and the other is misinformation, and “both are dangerous. “The covid-19 pandemic is hitting us now and will leave significant consequences. Disinformation has been in the making for a long time, only now it has become a major issue ”. “Disinformation”, he warns, “may mean that this crisis will not come out or a greater setback.” “It is in itself a dangerous business that survives thanks to ignorance and vileness,” he adds.

Despite the urgency with which it has been published, the author indicates that it has cost her to write it “35 years”, which are the ones she has used to “accumulate all that knowledge and develop the skill to disseminate it. Although what is known about the disease and the virus changes every day, his book will not incorporate new considerations: “It is not a at the moment, it is a finished work ”. Although he does not rule out rewriting on the subject in some other book. The publisher, Paidós, removes any hint of opportunism in the publication of García Bello’s book. Editorial sources assure that they always took into account the digital version of their essays, as well as the audiobook. “But it is true that the exceptional situation we live in and the fact that we have authors of the stature of the scientific popularizer Deborah García Bello in our catalog make them put themselves at the service of society to carry out this type of publication,” they argue.

Pandemic and freedom

The pandemic has also prompted the prolific Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek (Lubliana, 71 years old), analyst from a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective. The collection Nuevos Cuadernos de Anagrama has just published in electronic format, in Spanish and Catalan, Pandemic. Covid-19: the virus that shakes the world, with the anticipation of launching the paper edition when the bookstores reopen with all conditions “on May 20”. The author of Everything you ever wanted to know about Lacan and never dared to ask Hitchcock delves into the impact of the pandemic and the need to politically rethink contemporary society in the face of a health crisis that links “with politics, the economy, fear and freedoms”.

For the philosopher, there is a connection between the expansion of the pandemic and the socioeconomic model of modern societies and he detects in this “a warning against the ecological crisis.” Often disturbing, he argues that “the virus will destroy the very foundations of our lives” and that “there will be no return to normality”: “The new normal”, he warns, “will have to be built on the ruins of our lives.” Zizek, who allocates world rights to the book to the NGO Doctors without Borders, considers that the coronavirus crisis reinforces one of his theory: it will be the ruin of capitalism. “The coronavirus will force us to reinvent communism based on trust in people and in science,” he predicts.

The new normal will have to be built on the ruins of our lives


To make the death of capitalism more graphic, he turns to Quentin Tarantino and his film Kill Bill: Volumen 2, in which the villain is destroyed with a special technique. “The coronavirus epidemic”, slogan, “is a kind of Technique of the Five Pressure Points that Explodes the Heart in the global capitalist system, a sign that we cannot continue as we have been doing before, that a radical change is needed ”. “A clear signal”, abounds, of the need to “reorganize the global economy so that it is no longer at the mercy of market mechanisms”: not through “old-fashioned communism”, but with “some kind of global organization that can control and regulate the economy and limit the sovereignty of nation-states ”.

Zizek’s claim has “little scientific basis”, according to the Spanish global thinker Daniel Innenarity (Bilbao, 60 years old), who has gathered his urgent reflections on this crisis in the book Pandemocracy (Galaxia Gutemberg), which from May 27 will be available in paper and electronic format. “Zizek has been announcing that imminent end for some time without any empirical basis, in the format of the harangue and not through good arguments,” he assures by email. For Innerarity, “globalization will not end this”, but there will be consequences: “A huge debate has already started about which level of government is best suited for what kind of risks.” He predicts that there will be “phenomena of retraction and a return to a certain self-sufficiency”, although “decision levels will also be promoted beyond the States.” It will be “another globalization, more balanced and regulated according to risks that we did not attend to enough, but it will not be the end of globalization.”

The health crisis challenged Innerarity to see if what he claimed in his previous book (A complex theory of democracy) “Offered an adequate conceptual framework to understand and manage it”. This spring prompted him to write Pandemocracy, “A theory of what is happening.” “My contribution is conceptual: it is part of the solution to understand what is happening, although at the moment it is more urgent to have good epidemiologists and health workers than philosophers.” The philosopher starts from the premise that the coronavirus crisis “is an event that cannot be understood or managed without complex thinking.” In other words, it is “an event of non-linear dynamic interactions” that “produce small changes that can end up becoming massive transformations.”

Democracy on trial

With a foreword by the president of Congress, Meritxell Batet, Innerarity emphasizes in her book the increase in the vulnerability of democracy in the emergency situation that we live. “The pandemic has put democracy to the test from at least three points of view: how to govern in times of exception, the problem of effectiveness and its ability to produce social change,” he suggests. “The first issue questions the ability of democracies to identify and manage non-incremental changes, the second seems to put us at a competitive inferiority with respect to authoritarian systems and the third asks whether our distrust in the transformation capacity of ordinary institutional life has to lead us to wait for political changes to take place thanks to natural catastrophes ”.

The pandemic, without a doubt, has put duties in all areas, but Innerarity believes that “learning” from what is happening to us “is an unlikely operation”. “We cannot know if we are going to learn something, because then we would already know. Those who will learn least are those who know what others should learn and that coincidentally coincides with what they already knew. We will learn, yes, but surely with less speed and depth than would be desirable ”, he foreshadows.

But the editorial vein that the pandemic points to is not limited to dissemination and reflection. Literary creation has also detected a potential in the situation of confinement. The Confined is a thriller written in 15 days by Roberto Domínguez Moro and published only in electronic format by Maeva in her Noir collection. The edition of the book by this new Madrid author has had a process as fast as its writing. “In a few days we read it, hired it, reviewed it, mock-up it, designed the cover and the marketing campaign, and turned it into epub, with a teamwork of all the people of the publishing house, each one from his own confinement ”, says the editorial.

The isolation with broken hearts and wounded pride is an ideal framework to develop plots not only in Spain. Suma de Letras will publish the new novel by the Australian bestseller Liane Moriarty on May 28 in paper and electronic format, Nine perfect strangers, in which the author of Big Little Lies (novel adapted with notable success by HBO into a series starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon) tells the story of ten days of isolation in a spa. The story promises so much that Nicole Kidman’s producer is already working on the adaptation of Nine perfect strangers for a new series. And these books will not be the only ones.

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