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A mirror in fiction: drawing parallelisms between Camus’s La Peste and COVID-19
  1. César Pérez Romero
  1. National School of Public Health, Carlos III Health Institute, Madrid E-28029, Spain
  1. Correspondence to César Pérez Romero, National School of Public Health, Carlos III Health Institute, Madrid E-28029, Spain; cesar.perez{at}; cesperrom{at}


COVID-19 represents one of the most challenging global health issues in modern times. However, as epidemics have affected humans since our origins, many before us have described how significantly they compromise human lives. Leaving apart the aspects more linked to medicine and health sciences, we focus here on analysing how epidemics force people to change their habits, what type of emotions and behaviours they promote, and which roles are played by different social actors. For such a purpose, especially if we wish to draw some parallels between past epidemics and COVID-19, historical records seemed to be more suitable than literary works. Nonetheless, we have taken this approach relying on La Peste (Albert Camus, 1947), a novel based on a fictional epidemic of plague in the Algerian town of Oran. Far from creating a barrier separating fiction from reality, this reading allowed us to establish several links with our current situation. Recognising that context and solutions vary widely between the two scenarios, core matters concerning epidemics seemed to remain invariable. The important role of data and statistics, the leadership acquired by health authorities, the separations of relatives or the negative effects on trade and business are some issues which took place in Oran as well as nowadays. Besides that, epidemics also affect humans at an individual level, and certain thoughts and feelings in La Peste’s main characters may make us identify with our own fears and desires.

  • COVID-19
  • public health
  • medical humanities
  • literature and medicine

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  • Contributors CPR is the only author of this work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer This work was only based on bibliographical sources and did not include patients’ data or information.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.