Confinement

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a view of Japanese summer

Confinement, lockdown, quarantine, clausura, карантин, couvre-feu. Our everyday vocabulary has been filled with these forgotten, military words.

I have just finished my third week of confinement, with restricted freedom of movement and quite a few big and little inconveniences. Still, I believe that when confinement conditions are not dangerous nor inhuman, the difficulties of dealing with confinement are greatly exaggerated.

I was pondering the issue when reading La storia del nuovo cognome, the second volume of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels.

Elena, now a student in Pisa, describes how she wrote her first book. One morning, she bought a grid notebook and began writing down what had happened to her the previous summer, and kept writing for twenty days, not seeing anyone, only going out to get something to eat:

Una mattina comprai un quaderno a quadretti e cominciai a scrivere in terza persona di ciò mi era successo ….

Impiegai venti giorni a scrivere quella storia, un lasso di tempo in cui non vidi nessuno, uscivo solo per andare a mangiare. Alla fine rilessi qualche pagina, non mi piacque e lasciai perdere.

Writers, scientists, and creatives have lived periods of self-imposed isolation, and so have monks, astronauts, and submarine crew, to name but a few.  Whether voluntary or compulsory, people are able to live confined for extended periods of time, and often even profit from it.

I myself spent several weeks in splendid isolation during the final stages of my PhD thesis, and three months of going out only the strict minimum during the long, hot, and humid Japanese summer. Yes, it was inconvenient, but it was not particularly difficult.

Today’s situation is different.

The real difficulty is not confinement per se. The real difficulty is the uncertainty, the danger, and the battle against the virus.