Ling Ma’s Severance: A Dystopian Pre/Post-Apocalyptic Novel in the Time of Covid-19


In her attempt to write an apocalyptic fictional story, Ling Ma succeeds in creating an extraordinarily believable and engrossing anti-utopian image of the world. Her debut, Severance (2018), transcends the dystopian apocalyptic genre and becomes an impressive prophecy that partially comes true during the current Coronavirus crisis. It announces her as a talented author with its mix of humor, anger, terror and satire. Ma intends her book to be a critique of Capitalism. That is why she magnifies its harmful side effects through the lens of a destructive illness that starts with flu-like symptoms and develops into a pandemic. However, her book rings shocking and frighteningly true these days with the widespread of Covid-19. This research examines Ma’s Severance from a dystopian pre/post-apocalyptic perspective and highlights the similarities between its events and what happens during the current Covid-19 pandemic. The analogy between both pandemics proves that dystopian apocalyptic works are not always science fictional. First, the research briefly traces the origin of dystopian apocalyptic literature. Then, it discusses the use of common characteristics of this genre in the novel. Among them are the loss of individualism, the spread of plagues and pandemics, totalitarianism, the regimented lives of citizens, using the ‘defamiliarization’ technique, and emphasis on the theme of survivorship.


Soha A. Helmy


Apocalyptic literature, Covid-19, dystopia, Ling Ma, Severance