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Voices from the Pandemic

A New Series for These COVID-19 Times

As the world battles the COVID-19 virus, Words Without Borders is commissioning new work from contributors all over the world to offer humanistic perspectives on and literary responses to the crisis. We published the first piece, from Italian writer Silvia Ranfagni, on March 16, 2020, when the extent of the wreckage this coronavirus would leave in its wake was just becoming clear. Check back often for new selections of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to accompany us through these uncertain times.

From the Red Desert
By Maria Borio
I write to you from the red zone.
Translated from Italian by Danielle Pieratti
A Thundering Silence
By Felipe Restrepo Pombo
She stared at me in horror before hurrying off as fast as she could.
Translated from Spanish by Ezra E. Fitz
A boy wearing a headlamp lies on his stomach on a bunk bed and reads a comic book in the dark
Photo by Hans Isaacson on Unsplash
Corona Is a Ball with Spikes
By Maria Parr
“It’s everybody versus corona.”
Translated from Norwegian by Guy Puzey
A Message to Our Friends on the Moon: The Pandemic of 2020
By Milton Hatoum
The wars never ceased, the surveillance and control wrought by our digital world eroded our liberties, unemployment and poverty grew.
Translated from Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker
By Arlinda Guma
In Germany the statue of Marx is playing chess with the family doctor
Translated from Albanian by Peter Constantine
Morning Conversation
By Milena Solot
Although I wasn't really worried. I mean not really worried about him; you know what I mean?
Pas de Deux
By Libuše Moníková
Being with you is like being on an island, a quarantine island.
Translated from German by Anne Posten
What We Lost: COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers
By Hideo Furukawa & Kathleen McCaul Moura
What has the coronavirus taken from us? We need to answer this in a way that isn’t expressed through numbers.
Translated from Japanese by David Boyd
Wuhan Lockdown Diary
By Guo Jing
It was not my plan to start writing a diary, let alone keep doing it for seventy-seven days.
Translated from Chinese by Hongwei Bao
Spring Cleaning
By Yishai Sarid
I’ve been married almost twenty-five years, and I’ve never gotten carried away on an adventure like this before.
Translated from Hebrew by Yardenne Greenspan
Pandemic Diary
By Ricardo Romero
We are bad actors who suddenly find themselves in a leading role.
Translated from Spanish by Charlotte Coombe
Really Real Dragons
By Laia Jufresa
When I go out with my daughter, I herd her along, trying to keep her two meters away from anyone who approaches.
Translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey
On Masks
By Yu Jian
take custody of my mouth
Translated from Chinese by Shuyu Guo
notes from this city
By Carolina Pihelgas
the window frames have become national borders, the doorknob a border guard.
Translated from Estonian by Adam Cullen
6:00 p.m. after the Quarantine
By Lilya Kalaus
“The world will remain untouchable and unknowable, whether you’re in its corona or not.”
Translated from Russian by Shelley Fairweather-Vega
Notes from Kolkata
By Sonnet Mondal
”Amnesia shrouds a generation.”
Translated from Bengali by the author
Iovana, or The Birth of the Hero
By Iana Boukova
“And it was there, in the half-dark kitchen of the priest’s house, while finishing his second bowl of soup, that Damyan suddenly realized something was wrong.”
Translated from Bulgarian by Ekaterina Petrova
Plague Diary, March 23, 2020
By Gonçalo M. Tavares
“They say that even the smallest particles, like the virus, atoms, etc., make a sound . . .
Translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
Living in a Sci-Fi Movie: An Italian Screenwriter on Coronavirus
By Silvia Ranfagni
I’m living in a sci-fi movie. In fact, you are too. It’s a strange movie and the popcorn tastes of hand sanitizer.