“The Last City on Earth”: Thomas Mullen’s Premonitory Novel


A critic of the time quipped about this history of the closed city. What would he say today, the unfortunate, when China has just reopened its borders. After three years of closure… Thomas Mullen ignites our imaginations with this story based in part on true events. During the Spanish flu in 1918, there were some cities in the United States that practiced a fierce quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.

That’s exactly what’s happening in the Commonwealth, less than a hundred miles from Seattle, Washington. Founded by Charles Worthy, the town doesn’t even appear on maps. It embodies a dream, a utopia. A place where workers would be better paid and well treated. The bet is about to succeed, it’s good to live and work in the sawmill of Charles, an atypical boss, from a rich family but who has emancipated himself from this rough and nascent capitalism. A microbe will disrupt this balance like never before. Everything Charles and his wife have built over the years will crumble before their eyes, slowly, painfully and inexorably.

Science before rumours

Many topics are addressed by Thomas Mullen. The city in quarantine, as a metaphor for the isolationist policy of American President Woodrow Wilson, in the face of the European conflict that is developing in 14-18. The good Dr. Barnes who was able to embody the scientific council, now disbanded, and who for a while whispered a lot in the ears of President Macron or even former Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Covid and ended up annoying and side of the Rhine. Science before rumours. Reason versus madness. And the choice.

Obey or not, kill or not. For him, for the community. Graham, tall and short character. Obscured by his convictions. No moods. And Philip Worthy, 16. Little coquetry of the author in the choice of the surname. Worth means what it’s worth. The very embodiment of dignity. The breath of hope in this suffocating novel, on the edge of the precipice. Who listens, who doubts. What reconciles us with man. And if he has to stay, it will be him. Pure and intact.

The Last City on Earth, by Thomas Mullen, translated by Pierre Bondil, Éditions Payot/Rivages, Collection Rivages/Noir, 560 pages, 24 euros.

Source : Le JDD

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