The Anticipatory Grief of Living Through a Pandemic

The Great Believers, a Novel of the AIDS Crisis, Reminds Us That ‘We Are the Memory-Keepers of This Moment’

To be a survivor of wars, of diseases, of earth-shattering moments is to be an inheritor. You inherit the grief that comes with loss; but you also inherit the memories, and the responsibility and privilege of preserving those moments, of carrying on the legacies of those lost.

The role of memory-keeper is a tangled one, as Rebecca Makkai discovered when she interviewed patients, doctors, nurses, activists, and historians who lived through the AIDS epidemic for her 2018 novel, The Great Believers. The book is a provocative read during the COVID-19 …