“Pain, you must be everything for me. Let me find in you all those foreign lands you will not let me visit.” —Alphonse Daudet
In the Land of Pain—Alphonse Daudet’s poignant, humorous, and piercing reflections on his years of enduring severe illness—is a classic in the literary annals of human suffering.
Daudet (1840–1897) was a greatly admired writer during his lifetime, praised by Dickens and Henry James. In the prime of his life, he developed an agonizing nerve disease caused by syphilis and began taking notes about his experience, published posthumously as In the Land of Pain. Daudet wrote in powerful, unflinching images about his excruciating symptoms, his fears, his desperate attempts at treatment, and the effects of the morphine he came to depend on. His novelist’s eye and sense of humor did not desert him as he observed the bizarre society of his fellow patients at curative spas, nor did his generosity and compassion for them and for his friends and family. In Julian Barnes’s crystalline translation, Daudet’s notes comprise a record—at once shattering, haunting, and beguiling—of both the banal and the transformative realities of physical suffering.
“Startling . . . splendid. . . . Daudet provides the pain in images that . . . have rarely been equaled; and in words that turn wit to its true task of assaying the dark.” —The New York Times Book Review
“These are [Daudet’s] notes from underground. They include . . . ruminations on fear and fraud, and sharp observations of the healthy. But much of the book—and the book’s force—lies in the patient’s flailing search for a language to match his suffering.” —The New Yorker