The World's Best Unknown Books
09 09 2012

In Case of an Apocalypse...

Rabies Borislav Pekić

Rabies is a vision of the end of the world, or at least the end of what we, in our anthropocentric vanity, take for the world. The novel depicts a microbiological catastrophe that occurs because of a recombination of the rabies virus in a laboratory. Tearing off his characters’ petit-bourgeois mask of pity, Pekić demonstrates how ruthless people become when they have to save their own lives. This apocalyptic thriller deals with mankind and the nature of our civilization. It is a science-fiction drama with a number of parallel stories and a catastrophic end, and all happens at London’s Heathrow Airport. The book can be read on different levels and has a philosophical and even a religious message.

An incisive, sceptical but richly creative mind such as his can, in a period of chaos and destruction such as that engulfing his native Yugoslavia, offer a lifeline of sanity in the face of despair

The Independent

At London’s Heathrow airport there has been an outbreak of hydrophobia, an epidemic of rabies, caused by a lab strain, or as we would say today, the reprogramming of the natural rabies virus, which, based on its clinical outcome, is the deadliest disease known to mankind. The airport is quarantined and the war against the so-called Rhabdovirus begins. There is no happy ending. In order to prevent London and then the rest of the world from being infected; Heathrow is cremated and 250,000 people perish. The only survivor is a dog carrying the disease. The world is not saved.

If our only task in this and similar lethal epidemics was to find a cure for the disease, there may have been some hope. A cure, albeit provisional, can always be found. Humankind even survived the dreaded Black Death, which wiped out a third of Europe’s population.

The battle, however, is not just against rabies. The disease causes another kind of rabies in us, a kind of rabies that casts a shadow over our lives, the kind we read, listen and learn about, the kind we have to face in both our lives and our history, the rabies that each and every one of us carries inside.

Contact translation rights: Liliana and Alexandra Pekić

Original language
Original title
Besnilo (1983)
Earlier in these languages
Spanish, Hungarian, Slovenian

Available as
ISBN 9788652107247
530 pages