What few knew about Alphonse Daudet, the popular 19th-century French novelist, was that he suffered from syphilis. For the last 12 years of his life he kept an intimate notebook in which he recorded, with amused stoicism, the inevitable progress of the disease and his desperate pursuit of a cure.
Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) was one of the most popular nineteenth-century French novelists, whose work radiated humour and good cheer. What few except those close to him knew was that for his entire adult life he suffered from syphilis, a disease both unmentionable and incurable at the time. What even fewer knew was that for the last dozen years of his life he kept an intimate notebook in which he recorded the inevitable development and terrifying effects of the disease. He described the often alarming treatments he took in the desperate attempt to defeat the disease, and wrote with comic zest about life in the spa-towns to which he was sent for a cure. Even for a time when we are more openly confessional about illness, Daudet remains exemplary and instructive, both in his lucid self-examination and in his amused stoicism. In the Land of Pain was first published by Daudet's widow in 1931. Julian Barnes brings us the first English translation of this surprising, touching, and at times brutal masterpiece.