The New York Review is publishing dispatches from around the world documenting the coronavirus outbreak. Read the full series, and listen to writers reading their contributions, at nybooks.com/pandemic. —The Editors OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, March 17—By Thursday afternoon, downtown San Francisco, already void of tourists, had turned ghostlier still.
Dispatches on the coronavirus outbreak from Madeleine Schwartz in Brooklyn, Anne Enright in Dublin, Joshua Hunt in Busan, Anna Badkhen in Lalibela, Lauren Groff in Gainesville, Christopher Robbins in New York, Elisa Gabbert in Denver, Ian Jack in London, Vanessa Barbara in São Paolo, Rachel Pearson in San Antonio, A.E. Stallings in Athens, Simon Callow in London, Mark Gevisser in Cape Town, Sarah Manguso in Los Angeles, Ruth Margalit in Tel Aviv, Miguel-Anxo Murado in Madrid, Tim Parks in Milan, Eduardo Halfon in Paris, Anastasia Edel in Oakland, and more.
Shortly before its final dissolution, the Basque armed separatist movement ETA issued an apology pledging “to put out definitively the flames of Guernica.” In truth, the flames of Guernica were put out long ago. Picasso’s famous painting denouncing that tragedy has been hanging in a Madrid museum for decades. Even the flames of ETA were extinguished years ago. As for the group’s vision of an independent Basque Country, the paradox is that ETA has made that goal less, not more, feasible.
When thinking about Catalonia seeking independence, we circle back to metaphors. Romantic breakup or severed-limb mutilation, the language of feelings or the language of the body. What they all have in common is that in most cases breakups are irreparable and painful. In that, the other Catalans and Spaniards are right, too. At his point, nobody knows whether Catalonia will finally secede from Spain, but, if it comes to that, it will feel like the loss of a limb. And for many, the hurt will be unbearable.