Marina Warner’s Quarantine Diary

Isolation is a terrible punishment, we all know. Circumstances when people have been hidden away include, at the extreme end, being dropped down a well, like Joseph by his brothers, and left to die. In The Arabian Nights, the wicked wizard, Aladdin’s uncle, lowers the boy into a deep cave to fetch the magic lamp and, then, abandons him—but Aladdin manages to free himself, and freeing yourself by ingenuity and patience is a heroic possibility in such stories. 

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