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In his book The Burning House: What Would You Take?, Foster Huntington interviewed people across the United States, asking what they would grab if their homes were ablaze. His heartbreaking series of photos reveals objects all of us would think are essential—passports, money, pets, spouses—but also objects all of us, except that individual, would think are nonessential: a parent’s ashes or a Lego helicopter, a fountain pen or a shell necklace.

As the world confronts the fire of the novel coronavirus, not just people but entire nations are drawing different lines between the essential and the nonessential. On this side of the Atlantic, Americans are up in arms over whether gun stores should qualify as essential businesses, remaining open even though most other stores are shuttered. On the other side of the pond, however, the French are mounting the (virtual) barricades over the status of a different

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