Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) was one of the most popular nineteenth-century French novelists, whose work radiated humour and good cheer. What few except those close to him knew was that for his entire adult life he suffered from syphilis, a disease both unmentionable and incurable at the time. What even fewer knew was that for the last dozen years ...
Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) was one of the most popular nineteenth-century French novelists, whose work radiated humour and good cheer. What few except those close to him knew was that for his entire adult life he suffered from syphilis, a disease both unmentionable and incurable at the time. What even fewer knew was that for the last dozen years of his life he kept an intimate notebook in which he recorded the inevitable development and terrifying effects of the disease. He described the often alarming treatments he took in the desperate attempt to defeat the disease, and wrote with comic zest about life in the spa-towns to which he was sent for a cure. Even for a time when we are more openly confessional about illness, Daudet remains exemplary and instructive, both in his lucid self-examination and in his amused stoicism. In the Land of Pain was first published by Daudet's widow in 1931. Julian Barnes brings us the first English translation of this surprising, touching, and at times brutal masterpiece.
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Publishers Weekly, 2002-12-23 A popular writer in his time and admired by Charles Dickens and Henry James, French novelist, playwright and journalist Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) has been largely forgotten today. According to novelist and essayist Barnes (Something to Declare, etc.), Daudet's work, although considered charming and topical in its heyday, did not have the depth and relevance to transcend its age-with one exception, this small volume, translated into English now for the first time. Basically a loose journal of ideas, metaphors and observations, the book offers a devastating emotional and spiritual portrait of a main in profound physical pain in the tertiary stage of syphilis. Daudet continued to write and publish during his illness, though he experienced bouts of rheumatism and severe fatigue, which progressed on to debilitating "locomotor ataxia (the inability to control one's movements), and finally, paralysis." Daudet's descriptions of his physical ailment are palpably horrifying, and the feelings of isolation and inadequacy that result give readers a new understanding of the psychology of illness. Of the "sheer torture" of his pain, Daudet ultimately concludes that there are no words, "only howls." Words, he says, "only come when everything is over.... They refer only to memory, and are either powerless or untruthful." However inadequate the author may believe his words to have been, the indomitable spirit of life that is conveyed on every one of these pages is Daudet's ultimate triumph. 4 illus. (Jan. 16) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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