In the Land of Pain
- By: Anna Ellis
Alphonse Daudet was a novelist who lived in France in the second half of the 19th century. At the age of 17 he contracted syphilis, which lay dormant for some 20 years. He eventually developed locomotor ataxia as a result of tabes dorsalis, when the disease moved to his neurological system. He died in 1897 at the age of 57.
For the last decade of his life, Daudet kept a notebook. Some might call it a diary, but it was more a record of Daudets thoughts about the terrifying effects of syphilis. In the Land of Pain is the first English version of this notebook, which was originally published by Daudets widow in 1930 and has now been translated by the British novelist Julian Barnes.
Syphilis may not be the great problem today that it was before antibiotics, but nevertheless it is not confined to history. Daudets book is fascinating