Penned by seventeen local writers, this collection of short stories illustrates the many sides of South Africans in lockdown.

Ignoring the embarrassingly high pile of books on my bedside table, I decide to indulge in some coronavirus-related literature (yes, there is such a thing!) by local author and publisher, Melinda Ferguson.

Lockdown: The Corona Chronicles was published on Thursday, April 2, as an e-book and includes seventeen short stories, ranging from three to twelve pages in length, all ‘penned’ by local South African writers over the period of a week.

A journalist who has written for City Press and Daily Maverick amongst others, Ferguson catapults readers into the first piece, Wounded healers, a profound account of her wavering mental health leading up to the days of lockdown which started in South Africa on Thursday, March 26. What follows are stories, some intimate, others unexpected, laced with self-reflection and contemplation. Each one reminds me that in times of fear and confusion, introspection can either soothe or disturb. I found myself soothed by the candidness of these writers who share their deepest anxieties about this extraordinary situation.

I giggled alongside local author, Ben Trovato, who titled his piece Countdown to lockdown. His description of the impending disappearance of personal hygiene made me laugh. “Children, filthy savages of the best of times, start rotting from the inside” he writes.

To Ferguson, Trovato’s piece was the highlight of the book. “He makes us escape into humour,” Ferguson says.

I ruminate along with author Sara-Jayne Makwala King, in her piece Rescue me baby, where she reflects on the tumultuous nature of raising her daughter during a worldwide pandemic. I marvel at King’s literary prowess as she softly closes her piece, “Come hell or high water, pestilence or pandemic. No matter how much I hate myself, I’ll always love her [daughter] more.” This was my favourite story in the collection.

The collection, although appearing as a literary elixir to the anxieties of the moment, also reflects on class and racial disparities of the experience of the pandemic in this country.

“It wasn’t a handbook to make you feel better and escape coronavirus. I wanted to get people to escape from the hard facts and get into an emotional rollercoaster.” Ferguson says.

I am reminded by local radio personality, Sam Cowen, a fellow white woman who reflects on her own comfortable middle-class life, “this disease [coronavirus] knows no privilege.”

With a Vuvu rating of 8/10, I highly recommend spending some of your newfound time reading Lockdown: The Corona Chronicles. The eBook is currently available for R77,15 on Kobo.

FEATURED PHOTO: Melinda Ferguson teams up with sixteen local authors to create the perfect quarantine read. Photo: Provided