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Coronavirus

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caravaggios-sacrifice-of-isaac
Several online commenters have pointed out that Covid spelled backward becomes דיבוק in Hebrew, meaning dybbuk, a malicious possessing spirit. Using Google Translate, I found that divoc did yield דיבוק, but now, Google has tinkered with דיבוק so it merely translates as “obsessed.” Very cute. Exorcised, dybbuk is just excessive passion, you see, like a... Read More
Don’t be on the wrong side of history, Communists often warned, though of course, they needed entire classes of such people, from the bourgeoisie to landowners, kulaks, reactionaries, decadents, Fascists, monarchists, counter-revolutionaries, unreformed intellectuals, wreckers, diversionists, believers in God and, often, even yesterday’s revolutionary heroes. It didn’t matter if these charges made sense individually or... Read More
windhoek-2021x
I often write about ordinary people and the banal, because each situation is a complex allegory, if not an intriguing painting, and no one is uninteresting. Plus, normalcy calms. When you smell smoke, however, it might be wise to stop waxing about fried chicken, say, and see where the flames are coming from. In case... Read More
This happened in Tirana, Albania. As I walked across Skanderbeg Square one fine morning, a black dog darted across my path. As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, there was a woman chasing after him, shouting, “Nigra! Nigra!” It’s 2021, lady! At least have the decency to call him, “My nigga!” (Consult Rachel Jeantel for exact... Read More
cape-town-2021x1014
Universal suffrage finally came to South Africa in 1994. Not everyone cheered. Many whites hoarded beans, rice, rusks, canned protein, candles and gasoline, etc. They expected societal breakdown, if not mass violence committed by blacks in retribution. Thousands of whites emigrated, but, this is often overlooked, thousands also returned from overseas, so the “chicken run”... Read More
Pho in Saigon, 2021
After six months in Albania, it was time to move on. Céline: “When you stay too long in the same place, things and people go to pot on you, they rot and start stinking for your special benefit.” Actually, this did not happen to me in Albania. The longer I stayed, the more I loved... Read More
Felix Giordano at Friendly Lounge in Philadelphia, 2016
On June 4th, Common Dreams’ lead story is titled, “‘This Isn’t Going Away’: Defying Curfews and Police Brutality in Relentless Push for Justice, Uprising Over Killing of George Floyd Keeps Growing.” The same day, I received a mass email from Jee Leong Koh, a Singaporean poet living in Harlem. In an 800-word statement about the... Read More
On April 29th, an American friend wrote from Spain, where he’d lived for 20 years, “The government announced new (legal) abilities to track and monitor people’s telephones. My youngest [son] asked if we could go to the U.S. if Spain moves towards communism. I didn’t know how to respond! Frightening where this could go.” I... Read More
Coming to South Korea on a 90-day tourist visa, I never thought I would need to renew it, but thanks to the coronavirus, I had to, just last week. Encountering bureaucracy anywhere is usually stressful, but thankfully, the process here was quick and straightforward. Koreans know how to be efficient. Buses and trains always run... Read More
Busan on May 6th, 2020
Five months into the coronavirus crisis, there is no consensus about anything. When this virus was mostly limited to China, I tried to get as close as possible, so for two weeks, I stayed in Lao Cai, Vietnam. Nearly each day, I walked along the Red River to look into Yunnan, and what I saw... Read More
With the world becoming so stupid, by design, there is no mind or focus left to pay attention to any of the arts, so beauty is increasingly perverted and language sickens, by design. Numbed by nonstop media sewage, just about every man is divorced from his own thoughts even, so of course he can barely... Read More
In South Korea, you can still get on buses and trains, or just wander around for miles at your leisure, so yesterday, I was in Gimhae. Like all Korean cities, it unashamedly flaunts nondescript, skyscraping condos and sterile, soulless churches that surely prove there is no God, for there’s no way he would tolerate so... Read More
Pohang, South Korea, 2020
There are coronavirus cases in at least 185 countries, with none reported in North Korea. As Western Europe’s infection rate slows, Turkey’s and Russia’s accelerate. Africa’s death toll remains a remarkably low 1,136, but reliable statistics are impossible to get anywhere, not just in Africa. Coronavirus deaths may be wrongly attributed or simply uncounted. In... Read More
Yeosu, South Korea on April 7th, 2020
My freshman year in college, I had an English teacher, Stanley Ward, who said, “All writing is about sex or death,” which drew laughs from us idiots, for it sounded like a joke, but if you consider how everything falls within the continuum between the generation of life and its negation, then of course Mr.... Read More
All our lives, our sadism is masterfully jerked by movies and newscasts, so we’re giddy at the sight of other people being blown up or swept away by giant waves, anything, really, as long as it’s not us being napalmed or nuked. This coronavirus crisis is so disappointing, however, for there’s not much to see.... Read More
This is the third installment of Coronavirus Missives, a series in which I survey people in various countries about this emergency. Though I believe there is a global health crisis, most of my respondents think it’s just a giant hoax to enable increasingly totalitarian governments to shackle, cripple or even murder them. None of them... Read More
Hanoi\
When I left Hanoi on February 28th, its streets were still choked with traffic, most restaurants and cafes were packed, and there were only a few minor signs of the pandemic threat. There were more facemasks, especially on waiters and shopkeepers. At some dumpy pho joint, I spotted a sign requesting customers to not smoke,... Read More
busan-2020-x-3
In Singapore, you can be jailed for half a year for failing to keep “social distance.” The same offense in New York will only get you fined for up to $500, although an 86-year-old woman has just been killed when she got too close to someone at a Brooklyn hospital. Out of masks, Tennessee doctors... Read More
Outrageous events are avalanching, so any analysis risks becoming immediately obsolete, and even quaintly so. Just two weeks ago was the good old days. Remember when you could perform extraordinary tasks like loafing in a bar just to shoot the shit, walking down the street unperturbed or saying to a diner waitress, “Over easy, please,”... Read More
busan-2020x-1
As a chicken chomping, coke snorting species, we have three main foes. 1) Beasts more ferocious than us, such as tigers, lions and, well, just about all other animals, since we’re such wimps. 2) Living organisms we can’t even see, such as viruses. 3) Other men, of course, since man is clearly man’s most lethal... Read More
Incheon, 2020
Perhaps I have really bad body odor, but these days, I mostly eat and drink alone, sitting in completely empty restaurants and cafes, like right now. This casual yet elegant joint is called Ottchill. It has solidly built wooden chairs padded with homey cushions. The two baristas are young, attractive and courteous, and they’re here... Read More
Linh Dinh
About Linh Dinh

Born in Vietnam in 1963, Linh Dinh came to the US in 1975, and has also lived in Italy and England. He is the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). He has been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. He is also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (2006). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. His writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and he has been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US, and has also published widely in Vietnamese.