Thursday 28 May 2020

The Search for Human Connection in Songs for the End of the World

 “Society is still worth protecting, don’t you think? Maybe now more than ever.”
-          – Saleema Nawaz, Songs for the End of the World
Almost two months ago, the Montreal writer, Saleema Nawaz received considerable attention in the Canadian media for her novel Songs for the End of the World, about a respiratory pandemic ravaging 2020 America that bears startling similarities to the current COVID-19 Virus. Among them: the devastation of New York City from a mysterious infectious virus that originated in China; the inconvenience of self quarantines; the individuals on the front line – police and health care workers – risking their lives to save the lives of individuals afflicted with this virulent pathogen; the need for personal protective gear; social distancing ordinances; conspiracy theories posted on social media, and anti-Asian hate crimes. The novel took six years to research and write, and Nawaz’s imagination, combined with her knowledge about previous pandemics from the Spanish flu (1918-1920) to SARS, is etched into her narrative. Still, given her prescience, it is unsurprising that Songs, scheduled to be published in late August, was rushed into an e-book in early April.