Quarantine is a novel by Jim Crace and was first published in 1997. It is set during the lifetime of Jesus and deals with the character of Musa and the people he encounters in the Judean desert.
Two important themes in this novel are clearly sickness and health. The title Quarantine itself alludes to this theme, as quarantine is usually imposed on people who are sick in order to ensure that healthy people do not become infected with their illness. Musa suffers from a fever at the beginning of the story, but he suddenly recovers, seemingly having been cured by Jesus. Also, Martha, Shim, Aphas, and Badu, the other travelers in the desert, are seeking help for health issues by spending time in the desert. For example, Marta is hoping to be able to cure her infertility through fasting and being in the desert.
Another theme in the story, which is indirectly approached through the character of Jesus, is religion. Crace questions Christianity by including this religious character in his novel. Here, Jesus is not as strong as a traditional Christian would have expected him to be; he starves himself to death. This is clearly the author’s way of questioning Jesus’ true authority and divinity. According to the bible, Jesus was being tested by Satan during his time in the desert. In Quarantine, however, it turns out that it is not Satan, but Musa and the other travellers who are trying to interrupt Jesus’ fasting ritual. This obviously ridicules the story as it is told in the Bible and therefore again questions the truth behind the Christian religion. One could almost call the way Jesus is portrayed in this story as blasphemous.