So, if we’re to believe David Miliband, head of an International Rescue Committee meant to prevent a full-on outbreak of the Ebola virus, we’re now at an “absolute tipping point” that could lead to “widespread disaster.” Great. With that in mind, here are ten classic novels where the unthinkable — life-slaying pandemic and endless pain — is thought, recorded, and written about at length. These novels will not help you deal with an outbreak of the Ebola virus, but they do pose a lot of interesting existential questions about pestilential doom.
Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron (1351)
This masterpiece and Ur-narrative of plague literature is framed by a story about the Black Death in Florence during the 14th century. Boccaccio teaches us, perversely, to see the plague (in Latin “plaga” means “violent blow”) in the same way we see love. So the next time you imagine someone contracting Ebola, instead just pretend that they’re falling in love.