Never mind Nostradamus, our man Deon foresaw it all
South African author Deon Meyer is suddenly in the spotlight as the world’s media realise how accurately he foretold the pandemic.
Early in 2020, as it began to be apparent that the coronavirus was going to be something far more widespread and scary than an outbreak in an unheard-of city in China, social media began to circulate theories as to who, if anyone, had predicted the looming crisis.
There was Nostradamus, of course. But then, depending on how interpret his writing, he could have predicted anything from last week’s Russian lottery numbers to Leicester City improbably winning the English Premier League a few years back. Bill Gates was mentioned as a candidate (and still is). So too was an obscure self-proclaimed psychic named Sylvia Browne.
But nobody on social media thought to mention the bloke in South Africa who wrote an entire best-selling novel about it in 2016. The man in question is popular fiction writer Deon Meyer and the novel is called Fever.
Father and son in a virus-devastated South Africa
The basis of the plot is a father and son struggling to survive in a devastated South Africa after a virus has wiped out 95% of the world’s population. The country’s borders are closed. The infrastructure is intact. But the people are largely dead.
The cause is a coronavirus transmitted from an African bat to a man with a compromised immune system. He then infects his village. A family member happens to work at an airport and he coughs on an English visitor about to fly home. She becomes a carrier, the virus arrives in the UK … and the rest you know because you’ve been reading and hearing about it for the past few months.
Suddenly Deon Meyer is in the spotlight
Suddenly the media seems to be cottoning on to the fact that Meyer, who is best known as a crime thriller writer, has somehow been able to predict our 2020 world with surprising accuracy.
From his home in Stellenbosch he’s now given interviews to the likes of AFP, the well-known French news agency, and Anadolu Agency, a news agency based in Turkey.
“I find no pleasure in (having predicted) it. I keep thinking of the sorrow of all those thousands of people who have lost loved ones, lost their jobs and are living in fear,” the told AFP.
“I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic fiction, and read the genre intensely in my ‘20s and ‘30s,” he explained.
“As I became more and more aware of global warming, Ebola, the Avian Influenza (H5N1) of 1996 and the H1N1 Swine Flu virus of 2009-2010, I could not help but think that we live in a world where an apocalypse is a possibility.”
Medical experts steered him towards a coronavirus
As the idea for a storyline took hold, Meyer then consulted Professor Wolfgang Preiser, who is chief of the Medical Virology Department at the University of Stellenbosch.
“I approached Wolfgang with a request to identify a virus that could do the sort of damage that I needed in the novel. The magnanimous and indulgent professor not only helped enthusiastically but called upon his illustrious colleague, Richard Tedder of University College in London, to [also] help,” Meyer told Anadolu Agency.
“He said the scientists told him to pick the coronavirus as the candidate for the novel. They gave him details about the virus and how it can wreak havoc,” Anadolu reported.
As the virus spread in China, Meyer was in shock
When the first cases of coronavirus were detected in China last December, Meyer admitted to AFP that he went back through his notes in shock.
“Even most of the developing countries had extensive plans for such an incident,” reads another extract of Fever. “In theory, these should have worked. But nature paid no heed to theories, and nor did human fallibility.”
Now, as our lockdown continues, Meyer has another idea for a novel.
A crime novel,” he told AFP. “Set during the lockdown.”