"...The domestic space became as deadly as the front lines. The enemy was no longer visible or from a particular nation, but a silent, nonhuman killer, loyal to no country or creed and able to corrupt the body from within."
Beautiful book for sure, interesting, written with love, passion, intense and for everyone is Viral
The pandemic flu the so-called Spagnola of 1918 is remembered also in our rural area. My dad told me that an entire family except for a son of this couple died because of this flu. "Everyday there was a funeral of a member of the family; five people passed away."
This flu caused 100 million of dead; literature was also touched by it, with the abrupt departure of Apollinaire who once returned home said: "I am not fine. I will go to bed" and there he died in the night, prostrating all the Paris community of poets and writers.
This flu has had three waves and they were all devastating for the people of all the world.
The first wave caused a lot of departures, but people were absorbed by war, there were many other peoblems and living with the shadows of disgraces became a sort of habit. People didn't pay at first, attention to it.
Just doctors sounded worried because this flu attacked young people killing them in high numbers, causing a weird pneumonia.
On 1918 the Spagnola killed million of people and piles of bodies could be seen everywhere; the 5% of population died and the 8% were young men and women. In general flu is dangerous for older people and newborn children but it keep safe the young adults. In this case it was the opposite.
For symptoms, modality, this pandemic flu was a real pestilence. Nothing was normal with and in that flu. You will read. Not only: this flu attacked the brain as well and also once recovered, people continued to suffering of serious mental illness like depression or schizofrenia.
Not only: survivors experienced problems at lungs, they had vascular problems, cardiac irregularities, and many more physical problems. "It was a phantom and we didn't know where it was" added survivors.
And it was true, because at the beginning of 1900s it was clear that this virus was spread by air and contact with sick people; a pretty scaring situation this one. Who was sick?
People died abruptly everywhere, dying along the streets, in public transportation. Under many ways it was a better death than not the one "met along the virus, ahem, way" by many other people; a long, devastating, scaring, sufferance.
Churches, public locals of every sorta as schools, theaters, were all shut down.
And not just for fear. Simply, people were all sick, or dead or they tried to help their beloved ones affected by this terrible flu.
Church bells rang all the times for announcing new departures. Without interruption. It was psychologically devastating. Another imagine strong and firm remembered by survivors were funerals, coffins, cemeteries. In some places tells the author, there were communal graves because preparing coffins implied a certain time, but this plague caused wagons of dead and also the workers of funeral homes were not prepared: after a while corpses were buried all together. If some families disappered because of this virus, other ones more lucky were anyway heavily damaged by the disappearance of important members of their families. IF it didn't arrive with the war, poverty afflicted people thanks to the Spagnola. Mary McCarthy, a writer added that "The chain of recollection - the collective memory of a family - had been broken." It happens when there are big disgraces.
Soldiers lost family members and when they returned home they did find different and saddest families.
But it was also the opposite: soldiers didn't lose their existence killed in war, but killed by flu and this fact considered incredibly frustrating, because this enemy couldn't be fought, couldn't be killed, could not be seen or recognized.
People who, apparently were incredibly healthy, were devastatingly sick; problems was that they spread the virus wherever they went.
That ones were years in which information, also thanks to the war, was different from the one that there is today.
If doctors lived with frustration this failure, population appeared scared to death by war and a flu that had to be innocuous, but that revealed with its passage all its micidiality.
The fact that no one talked of this problem, and also the horrible, horrible symptoms of this illness (the one close to this pandemic flu is the Ebola for a quick comparison) created and affirmed with the time in literature and movies creatures like zombies. Dead people: their shadows not only did not disappeared, but continued to torment the existence of the living ones because of the atrocities they saw with their own eyes.
It wasn't just a war that plagued them, also a pandemic illness; a silent, invisible snake in grade of destroying families, microcosms and an harmony that was previously broken by war and now completely devastated by the arrival of this phantom.
Who wrote after the pandemic flu took in consideration several factors: illness, death, mourning, the corpse and violence.
Why zombies? Maybe because psychologically these dead people had to return, because they were the forgotten ones, the ones no one indulged a lot at speaking about.
It was as if the pandemic flu was forgotten, removed, but thanks to the first world war and the wild wind in Europe the dead ones asked to be taken in consideration; as if the horror seen and lived before to dying had to be written down; as if these dead people wouldn't find peace.
The pandemic readings starts to approach the problem creating what it is called an "anticipatory anxiety" or the so-called and known "pre-traumatic stress disorder" writes Outka.
In particular intellectuals understood that this one was not the end of the problems because of the wild winds in Europe; people wrote about a past war waiting for a new one.
The author decided of focusing on that people of letters alive in the countries affected by flu and war so that she gives to the reader a first-hand approach.
The pandemic flu was the biggest and saddest surprise of a world broken by a war; an arrival not just unwanted but invisible.
An enemy no one could fight and defeat. That's why no one talked with pleausure of the horrible visit of the Spagnola; because it was the horror in a horror.
That war could have a sense. An army has an enemy and so a confrontation with someone else, sorted out with arms.
The pandemic flu didn't respect this role: it was a story of fortune if you survived, but what your eyes saw was real horror and horror needed to be removed by brain as quickly as possible for going on happily.
Doing so, unfortunately many more specters survived; there was a lack of elaboration; rational elaboration was too scaring.
In the first part the author takes in consideration the works by Willa Carther, One of Ours written in 1922, Katherine Ann Porter Pale Hore, Pale Rider, Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe and They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell. These authors are all Americans and they read the pandemic flu in a more absorbing way than not most of Europeans countries did, because Americans were not heavily affected by the First World War, but seriously one by Pandemic Flu.
While Carther offers a portrait of a soldier in war and the outbreak in the troops, a flu seen and read by everyone like just another devastation in the horror that they daily saw, (descriptions are strong) Ann Porter will tell the pandemic flu as the most relevant problem and not just incorporating it with the war. it was an incredible big mess. If these first two authors focused mainly in the sensations presented by the arrival of the pandemic flu, Wolfe and Maxwell defined private spaces, domesticity, what it meant for people the arrival of flu, with his luggage of illness, mourning, death.
In Europe Virginia Woolf with Mrs.Dalloway takes in consideration flu like also T.S.Eliot's The Waste Land and Yeats The Second Coming.
Virgina Woolf will investigate the interaction in her book of war and pandemic flu mixed together and what left in people with the time; the Waste Land won't touch directly the virus's problem; Yeats will portray the pandemic flu vibrantly having experienced in first hand and in family the tragedy.
Doyle the father of Sherlock Holmes had lost his son thanks to the pandemic flu and although he had lost many relatives thanks to the war, developed a marked spiritual approach to both these thematic, speaking of ectoplasms, photographic perceptions.
Other directors like Gance's in J'Accuse portrayed the arrival of pandemic flu in all its violence and virulence. Dead ones, forgotten will return because upset by the behavior kept by the living ones of the village who had completely forgotten them.
What appear more than clear is that somewhere someone was forgotten but the shadows of dead of the pandemic flu continued to torment the existence of people per generations.
It's a wonderful book this one; engaging, informative, unputtable down 'till the end; oh, you will discover it!
I lived with the scaring tales of my dad, and when I can find books about this pandemic flu I always love to reading them. This one is special because Pandemic flu, the so-called Spagnola is read with the eyes of many creatives, people who experienced this flu and who remarked the horror, the impotence, the dead bells ringing every second, the streets plenty of corpes, hospitals without anymore capacities for more men, an alarming situation and an altered daily existence.
Let's play this game:
Try to imagine the impossibility of a normal life; simply because people met everyday were dying, sick or because they assisted people pretty sick. Imagine what it wanted to say not seeing anymore friends, relatives; imagine not going anymore in a church, in a store, in a library, in a place where people needed to go for some shopping, for pleasure, simply because people were dead or sick. Imagine: it happened in a few months. Imagine that a world of people disappeared; now imagine the mental stress, imagine the psychological situation. Include that that people assisted at some case of pandemic flu. For going on they had just to remove from their brain the experience: just for not becoming crazy.
It was, realistically was, a scaring moment for the humanity; a war meant a terrible pain for families in general, but the pandemic flu was the real horror.
I thank Columbia University Press for the physical copy of this book.
Anna Maria Polidori