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Before he settled on The Plague for his title, Camus considered The Separated and The Exiles. Exile comes suddenly to the inhabitants of Oran, a ‘clean-cut deprivation’ of contact with their lives beyond the city. The roads are sealed overnight. Not even letters can escape for fear of infection. Phone calls are restricted to ‘urgent cases.’ Lovers parted by quarantine must ‘hunt for tokens of their past communion within the compass of a ten-word telegram’ [...]
Things were not so free back then, but I was. Still a girl, living in my body. We’d been at the pictures, her dad and me, slurping pop, finding each other’s hands in the space for drinks. He waited until we got to the station to kiss me, which seemed so out of character. I’d seen no proof of happiness in marriage and dishwashers, so when he asked me back to his flat, I didn’t mind. It wasn’t 'beyond' I was after [...]
Gaby didn’t mean to do it. She wanted to, though — wanted to do something so bad that she might have something to write about — to make the words better than her own life, own breathing, Mark’s breathing. What else is there to it? They met a decade ago when she was halfway through a bland novel, an equally bland degree. They married and less than a year later, she began wanting. She thought that ten years was a decent run of things, a human sort of number [...]
‘Why not just burn everything?’ Sarah puts down her cup and reaches for the bottle. She pours herself more wine. On the table, all the glasses are full. ‘You know we can’t,’ I say. ‘Why not? Let’s just get rid of them, once and for all.’ She gestures at the plants making their way through our windows, through every crack in the walls. Around our kitchen and living room, short green stumps line the edges of the ceiling like sharp poking fingers, their flesh covered with a thin [...]
For the 20th anniversary of the Poetry Archive’s first poetry recording, with their live recording programme necessarily suspended, the Poetry Archive is finding new ways to include poets so they can 'preserve the poetry which records this extraordinary year'. From April 10th to September 10th 2020, the organisation is opening up their archives to all poets, asking that they make a video of themselves reading or reciting a single poem – for example, 'through their phones [...]
The sliding doors at Tesco are fastened open. A torn flyer that reads PAINTBA pokes out from under the felt. I roll one of the smaller trolleys through, forearms leaning on the handle, head stooped forward and turned right so I can see the cashiers, left ear to the ground, left thumb and forefinger dangling my phone in a small fanning motion over the cart. I see all the lines extend back into the aisles, I can hear a steady blip of scanners, feet shuffling forward, light and heavy ruffling: packets of crisps and [...]
Jack Solloway Sinéad Gleeson on solidarity in sickness, isolation and empathy   With the UK government currently advising ‘social distancing’ and the country expecting further preventative measures against the coronavirus pandemic, Sinéad Gleeson’s debut book Constellations: Reflections from Life – a collection...
We’d agreed to the terms and conditions. How to accept and decline an invitation of touch. What to do in case of accidental erection. We’d ticked the box that confirmed we were clean, contagion-free, sound of mind people. Pierre roamed the yoga studio with a disarming smile. He was there to enforce the rules: platonic touch. No funny business. Most people in the studio had paired off, their bodies locked together on those tired mandala cushions. Some lay hidden under white duvets like dead unmoving things [...]

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