Back, sort of

The Babu apologises for the long silence, but he was struck down in his prime by foul fevers etcetera. He’s not going to describe the illness, following the example set by Paul Theroux:
“Illness is nearly always dramatic in imaginative literature…so much of fiction is a fever chart. But illness is very tedious in a travel book.” Or a blog.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had more to say about “the uses of medicine in popular fiction”, in one of his short stories:
“…[of] what diseases are made most use of in novels. Some are worn to pieces, and others, which are equally common in real life, are never mentioned. Typhoid is fairly frequent, but scarlet fever is unknown. Heart disease is common, but then heart disease, as we know it, is usually the sequel of some foregoing disease, of which we never hear anything in the romance. Then there is the mysterious malady called brain fever, which always attacks the heroine after a crisis, but which is unknown under that name to the textbooks. People when they are overexcited in novels fall down in a fit. In a fairly large experience I have never known anyone to do so in real life. The small complaints simply don’t exist. Nobody ever gets shingles or quinsy, or mumps in a novel. All the diseases, too, belong to the upper part of the body. The novelist never strikes below the belt.”

In more modern times, cancer and AIDS took over from heart disease and one disease Conan Doyle didn’t mention, though it was very popular in fictional terms–consumption or TB. And of late, I’ve noticed a plethora of syndromes: synaesthesia, the strange neurological disease that Baxter suffers from in McEwan’s Saturday, the aneroxics all over the place, of course, a rise in autistic children… Any more?

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