When the plague swept through London in 1665 and killed twenty percent of its population who ended up in hastily dug mass graves, five-year old Daniel Defoe survived because his family left the city. In 1722 the author of Robinson Crusoe and other classic books published this path-breaking account of the human responses to a horrendous pandemic with no visible cause, based on an uncle’s journals. Combining unusual curiosity and actual historical data with deep compassion, Defoe chronicles his fellow-citizen’s disbelief and denial at the first cases, the desperate escapes from a ravaged London, and the alternately charitable and callous but heartrending stories of those who lived through it or died. A Journal of the Plague Year reveals with undiminished urgency how we make sense of our role in a cataclysmic historical event when many of the rules, expectations, and acts of creating meaning have been upended.
Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) was an English novelist and poet as well as a soldier, merchant, newspaper publisher, pamphleteer, gambler, spy, revolutionary, and social reformist. Pilloried and jailed for his satirical work, he is best known for Robinson Crusoe, the immensely popular, fictionalized account of a shipwrecked sailor that has inspired countless retellings. Among many other publications his best-known books are Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack, and Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress. He is considered by many to be the first true English novelist and had tremendous influence on the development of the form.
Ulrich Baer holds a BA from Harvard and a PhD from Yale. He is University Professor at New York University, where he teaches literature and photography and has been awarded Guggenheim, Getty, and Alexander von Humboldt fellowships for his work. He is the translator and editor of Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Dark Interval, Letters on Life, and Letters to a Young Poet. Other books include Remnants of Song, Spectral Evidence, What Snowflakes Get Right, and in the Warbler Press Contemplations series: Dickinson on Love, Nietzsche on Love, Rilke on Love, Wilde on Love, and Shakespeare on Love.
“A close conversing with Death, or the Diseases that threaten Death, would…remove the Animosities among us, and bring us to see with differing Eyes, than those which we look’d on Things with before.”
—from the book
Price: $12.95 (paperback) | $2.99 (ebook)
Pages: 276 pages
Book dimensions: 5.25 x 0.6 x 8 in
Published: March 31, 2020