Bombay Fever, the Toujours Vu, and our Plague Era: A Phenomenology of Reflexivity

Jason S Polley*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


    To read popular novelist Sidin Vadukut’s medical thriller Bombay Fever (2017) any time after Chinese New Year 2020 is in effect to reread the prescient novel. Covid has transformed us as readers (of plague fiction). We’re no longer wide-eyed playgoers. Instead, we’re squinty-eyed analysts; we’ve moved from incredulity (OMG!!!) to recognition (real talk). Vadukut’s originally speculative novel is presently a realist one—or, rather, a text that (now) elides said modernist genre-division by virtue of the Toujours Vu, the reader’s sincere detective-like investment in the always-already ongoing and experienced. Affect, here, supplants ironic (pomo) distantiation or remove. This doubly invested (as plague patient; as identifying subject) readerly process results in a critically and emotionally complicated textual experience, one that allows for the fruitful interrogation of the role of reading (plague; fiction) in the face of lived existential anxiety in a post-truth era. Vadukut reflexively addresses the “complicated truths” of our laissez-faire familiarity with pharmacology. Furthermore, addressing plague fiction in the western tradition, Vadukut adds another reflexive level to the first (arguably) plague novel in English: Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year (1722). Where Defoe’s innovative style longconfounded even savvy literary critics, however, Vadukut’s thriller no-less skilfully enthrals them. Both allegorically and literally, Vadukut, like few other plague writers, captures the official and unofficial narratives of our toujours vu byzantine global present.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)34-45
    Number of pages10
    JournalMEJO: The MELOW Journal of World Literature
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


    Dive into the research topics of 'Bombay Fever, the Toujours Vu, and our Plague Era: A Phenomenology of Reflexivity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this