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Images from The New York Times Magazine

If there’s one thing we know for sure about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that it will mark our imaginations for the times to come. In that spirit, The New York Times Magazine recently asked a number of authors from around the world “to write new short stories inspired by the moment.” The Decameron Project, as this collection of stories is called, takes its cue from Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, novellas written in the 14th century that were themselves inspired by the bubonic plague (a.k.a. “The Black Death”) which swept throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia between 1347 to 1351.

Twenty-nine authors participated in The Decameron Project. Among them are six authors from Africa and the African diaspora: Mia Couto, Esi Edugyan, Uzodinma Iweala, Laila Lalami, Dinaw Mengestu, and Leila Slimani. Click the images below to read the full stories and hopefully, to find some insight into our current moment. As the introduction to the project says, “When reality is surreal, only fiction can make sense of it.”

Mia Couto: “An Obliging Robber,” translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw

Esi Edugyan, “To the Wall”

Uzodinma Iweala, “Sleep”

Laila Lalami, “That Time at My Brother’s Wedding”

Dinaw Mengestu, “How We Used to Play”

Leila Slimani, “The Rock”

To read the full collection of stories, head here.

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