This week, AWM Program Director Allison Sansone chats with writer and historian Catharine Arnold about her recent book Pandemic 1918: Eyewitness Accounts from the Greatest Medical Holocaust in Modern History. This conversation took place May 26, 2020 and was recorded live via Zoom.
We hope you enjoy entering the mind of a writer.
“It was important for me to really bring [the 1918 pandemic] alive, just to tell readers that these were living, breathing, suffering people just like yourselves.”
“It’s quite surprising that as a phenomenon it was written about and mythologized the way [World War I] was…You would’ve thought, given that this is a nation that’s produced so many other great writers especially in that generation, that there would be more written about Spanish Flu.”
“Because Spanish Flu, like all pandemics, was going on in a lot of places at the same time. It didn’t do a simple narrative arc from one place to the next. It was literally all over the place and trying to come up with a narrative for it was like trying to nail jelly to the wall.”
“I thought there was far more in the way of government control standing between us and total annihilation, and I’m realizing now that there’s less of that, unfortunately.”
“We are getting some indication of the colossal existential crisis that people faced [during 1918 pandemic]. That real feeling that we haven’t had for generations, that our lives are at risk from something unknowable.”