A magnificent and heart-felt guest blog by our own Michael Nath at interestingliterature.com on writers and their lungs, from Lawrence Sterne to Proust.
As an extra distraction from the job of writing his life, Sterne gave his own worst organ to Tristram Shandy. Before we object to such a dubious gift, let’s marvel at the wrapping, that image of fluency contending with nature – not to mention the ‘Flanders’ effect (over the sea/close as the garden). Pickling disease with mirth, Tristram reports an episode of haemoptysis at the sight of a cardinal pissing with two hands. For the weak of lungs, every laugh is a dice throw. As an undergraduate, Sterne himself was already coughing blood; making it to 55 without Streptomycin must have required unusual vitality.
The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture
University of Westminster Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
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