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Philip Sandblom (1996) Creativity and Disease: How illness affects literature, art and music

By David Butler What are you reading? 18 Dec 2013

What are you reading? (and what are you drinking with it!)
Name: David Butler
Profession: Educationalist
Book title: Creativity and Disease: How illness affects literature, art and music  (1996)
Author: Philip Sandblom
What are you drinking with it? Icy cold Coopers Pale Ale (it’s 38 degrees C in Oz)
Thoughts so far/Quote:
Call me odd but I have always been fascinated by how people dealt with pain in the centuries before we had effective pain medications and other treatments. It’s been left to the artists, poets and writers to tell us. Sandblom, a surgeon has collected “a collage from various sources” including illustrations to tell us about the effect of illness on art forms.  You can read about Chopin’s respiratory diseases, Matisse’s gut problems, Mozart’s alleged Tourettes and Shaw’s hatred of doctors. Quirky, fascinating, instructive and a bit gruesome, it makes you glad we live in this century. There is a chapter on pain including management strategies – the agony of Immanuel Kant’s glowing red gouty toes was mitigated by willpower by conjuring up associations with the name Cicero.  Karen Blixen dealt with the agonies of syphilis by declaring “all sorrows can be borne if you place them in a story”.

I will leave you with a grim poem about pain related insomnia by Pierre de Ronsard, a Renaissance poet.

Bring back the sun, I lie harassed by pain.
I die with open eyes, tossing and turning.
For sixteen hours at least I storm
From side to side crying
Impatient I cannot keep quiet.
I call day vainly and I plead with death
While she feigns deafness and keeps away.

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