Fire Flood Plague: Australian writers respond to 2020
edited by Sophie Cunningham
Vintage Books, $29.99 pb, 255 pp
A detailed timeline prefaces Fire Flood Plague. Stretching from September 2019 to September 2020, it charts events so momentous that Christos Tsiolkas describes them as being ‘imbued with an atavistic, Biblical solemnity’. Sophie Cunningham, the book’s editor, notes in her introduction that many of the contributors (herself included) have found themselves drafting their essays ‘once, twice, thrice, as we’ve progressed from bushfire and smoke-choked skies, to the early days of the pandemic … and into the exhaustion of what is becoming a marathon’. Indeed, many of the writers, aware of the ground shifting beneath them, are precise about when they begin writing. This instability surely mirrors how many of us have experienced the past year: doomscrolling through an eternal present; one crisis eclipsing another. And though this anthology deals with recent events, already it has the quality of an artefact: Cobargo and Mallacoota sound like names from another era; the end of Trump’s presidency is in sight; Victoria has had a string of ‘double doughnut’ days; the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are imminent.