Ludmila Ulitskaya, (2021). Just The Plague. Trans. Polly Gannon. London: Granta, first published 2020.
What happens when a scientist working in an infectious diseases laboratory accidentally infects himself with a highly contagious and deadly virus, travels across the country and unwittingly starts to infect everyone he comes into contact with, leading to a desperate scramble to track and trace every known contact in an effort to contain the spread? Sound eerily familiar? This tale, written originally as a screenplay in 1988, is the premise for the novella Just the Plague, by renowned Russian author and dramatist Ludmila Ulitskaya.
Given that the novel was originally written for television and only latterly adapted into a book, the length, pace and style are more sparse and sharp than one might expect or desire. This aside, the novel's fast pace matches the speed of the spread of the virus.
The story opens with a scientist opening a sample of bubonic plague