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In the Land of Pain

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  252 ratings  ·  33 reviews
“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, pr
Paperback, 112 pages
Published March 22nd 2016 by Vintage (first published December 1st 1929)
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Is it possible that one can write beautiful descriptions of pain? I don't know if this is really a "book" so much as a collection of notes, but I was mesmerized. I kept thinking to myself - why hasn't this been done before? (And maybe it has, but I haven't come across anything quite like it.) This is what pain is like from the inside - pain without cure, pain leading to death. And it's incredible.

"My poor carcass is hollowed out, voided by anaemia. Pain echoes through it as a voice echoes in a h
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the Land of Pain by Alphonse Daudet is a set of notes about his ghastly suffering due to tabes dorsalis, a form of advanced syphilis that develops over the course of decades and, because it attacks the spinal cord, generates an utterly bewildering set of painful symptoms: no part of the body, or mind, is spared, there is no predictable rhythm or sequence involved, it could be your calf, it could be your trembling hands, it could be double-vision, it could be transient paralysis, it could be a ...more
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The problem with Julian Barnes' In the Land of Pain by Julian Barnes, translated by Julian Barnes and with footnotes by Julian Barnes, is that this is supposed to be Alphonse Daudet's autobiographical account of his time receiving treament for syphilis in sanatoriums.

And it still is that, it's a frank and intimate collection of Daudet's short and beautifully written notes on medicines, morbid humour, TMI details of fellow patients and agony. The book is barely a novella in length, and yet it sho
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Painful as it is to read, this is one of the only texts that has confronted me with what living in my own land of pain is like. Pain--so impossible to describe--is here acutely rendered in Daudet's notes, scribbles of desperation, despair, and the helpless void that is living in chronic pain. As someone with a chronic pain condition, I cannot recommend this tome enough to my friends and family, or to anyone who wishes a glimpse at the trials and travails bestowed upon those with constant, physic ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by a customer to my husband as a "must read". I, unfortunately, cannot give that same shout of praise. Two of the three stars I give this is for Julian Barnes -- just for being Julian Barnes.

There are some interesting factoids about early writers, as well as syphilis, pain, and drug use among some of those considered "the greatest minds and thinkers of our time". Not interesting enough, however, for me to suggest you bother reading this yourself.
else fine
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
This book, both thoughtful and delightful, would probably be enjoyed by just about anybody. If you find yourself in the position of being diagnosed with something incurable, painful, and chronic, however, this book becomes something more necessary. How do we face our pain and our ends with clarity and grace? These notes from a fellow sufferer will help light the way.
Dec 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here you have none of Donne's morbid, self-regarding theatrics, but rather a magnificently cleared-eyed account of bodily dissolution.

It must take courage to confront unbearable physical pain with... attention. Daudet emerges from this book an unlikely hero.
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vincent Katz
Daudet's notes for a journal of his own death (over years) from should be depressing but it is wonderful
Wes Hazard
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Are words any use to describe what pain (or passion, for that matter) really feels like? Words only come when everything is over, when things have calmed down. They refer only to memory, and are either powerless or untruthful." - Alphonse Daudet

This book is kind of remarkable. It's a decade+ chronicle of the persistent, immersive, & excruciating pain endured by one man (Alphonse Daudet, a very well known French writer in his day) that manages to never be self-pitying, redundant or macabre. Afte
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned
In the final ten years of his life, dying from the strain of syphilis that caused his body to fluctuate between paralysis and uncontrollable spasms, Daudet complied this journal of notes on pain for a piece of fiction that he was never able to write. It's a stark and sobering read, with the first half being an attempt to describe living through constant pain and torture: "Are words actually any use to describe what pain (or passion, for the matter) really feels like? Words only come when everyth ...more
In the Land of Pain is a quick but rewarding read comprised of the fragmentary notes that French author Alphonse Daudet took as he slowly died during the tertiary, fatal stages of syphilis. What makes it remarkable is the lack of egoism that sometimes plagues similar projects; there are no grand metaphors or dramatic conclusions to end the author's life. Instead, Daudet describes simple things that he can never escape - pain described in analogy to everyday life. The pain, which he describes as ...more
Mar 10, 2020 rated it liked it
"Are words actually any use to describe what pain (or passion, for that matter) really feels like? Words only come when everything is over, when things have calmed down. They refer only to memory, and are either powerless or untruthful."

"What we want diminishes to fill the smaller space available. Today, I don't even want to get better - just to keep on the same level."

"The way nurses talk: 'That's a lovely wound . . . Now this wound is really wonderful.' You'd think they were talking about a fl
Jul 17, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: assigned-fiction
This book is a series of fragments and notes Daudet made over all the years he was slowly slowly dying of syphilis. He spent most of his time in excruciating pain or doped up on morphine and these jottings are his best attempt at holding forth on the subject of pain. A pretty good examination at the sort of the conflicted internal life of one suffering chronic pain. Weirdly I think this was recommended to me as a comedy.
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It amazes me how "modern" of an illness narrative this is for the time in which it was written. The book consists of a series of meditative fragments, translated by Julian Barnes, of a man suffering with intense pain from syphilitic neural degeneration. So many beautiful, lucid lines like this one: "[there is] no general theory about pain. Each patient discovers his own, and the nature of pain varies, like a singer's voice, according to the acoustics of the hall..."
I did not think this was going to be as readable as it was, since I don't usually enjoy French authors, but in fact it's lovely. That is, except the endless footnotes by the translator, mostly about things you don't care about that only distract from the text. Except sometimes when the clarify something, so you find yourself reading them.
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-lit
I am a big Barnes fan and I know his French is excellent. This was an odd little book about a man's last dying days. It was interesting and the language was intellectually challenging but what a morose subject.
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing view of living with pain, illness and slow disintegration, written in a journalistic and somehow pragmatic fashion. Very instructive to my own creative writing on pain, addiction, sin and redemption.
Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing read. Highly recommend
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
crude degeneration is such a modernist motif that, just by describing his reality, daudet's writing feels ahead of its time!
Valentina Salvatierra
Analogous to the sick people at Lamalou with their ambivalence of goodwill and envy, I don't quite know how to relate to this book. It is basically a very short, impressionistic set of notes by novelist Alphonse Daudet describing his experience of tertiary syphilis, with an introduction and afterword by Julian Barnes. I would not call it a novel, or even a memoir: it is too loose and unstructured for either term. I read it as part of a course titled 'Modernity & Ethics', for the week in which we ...more
Peter Panacci
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most poignant, revealing and beautifully dark books I have ever read. Alphonse Daudet's struggle with syphilis and impending death, amid constant pain and suffering, is a truly unique insight into the mind of someone acutely aware of his own demise, and the effects it has on those around him. This will move you and open your mind to something only those have experienced can describe.
Ciahnan Darrell
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, sublime
This book is mesmerizing. Julian Barnes' introduction is incisive, informative, and engaging, and Daudet is mesmerizing. It never occurred to me that a man's notes on the experience of dying a slow and excruciating syphilitic death could be so rich or engaging. But they are, and I find myself returning to the book time and again, and learning something new every time.
Leah Mensch
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this enough! I loved Daudet’s insightful and poetic jottings on what it was like to have tabes dorsalis in the last decade of his life, his charming anecdotes about sanatorium culture and fellow sufferers, and Barnes’s footnotes replete with great factoids about the great French literary syphilitics.
Richard Wu
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alphonse Daudet, as introduced here by Julian Barnes, appears to have been a promiscuous individual, his syphilis the cause of this notebook’s existence. Perhaps Kafka’s fear of sexuality was born from reading notes like this; the process by which such texts inspire fear in their readers is almost visible, and should anyone doubt the power of the word, I suggest they give this a run.

I see two ways to evaluate this work. One, as a meditation on pain, and two, as a sort of gift of the magi. Let’s
Phil Watson
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Daudet (trans. Barnes) is an excellent writer, and after reading this account of his decline as a result of syphilitic tabes dorsalis, I feel I should read more of his work. This is a unique insight into the late 19th-century experience of someone wasting away from a now-curable ailment. Well-written, at times philosophical, musings on pain and death and the value of life, even small things, in the light of suffering.
Originally Daudet was going to write a book about Some Other guy who was dying who wanted to commit suicide etc, because Daudet was afraid of embarassing his family.

A lot of people put pressure on him to keep any book in that vein from being written, so we're left with the jottings and notes he left while syphilis was eating his brain.

None of them really struck me as outright horrible, I had to think of them for a minute before that happened. Its a really short book that would probably take anyo
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing chronicle of a man dying of syphillis; and oddly I found myself enjoying his words and the way he puts them together, even when in excruciating pain. BUT the endless footnotes really distracted from the book, at least for me. Some of the footnotes covered 3/4 of a page and went on to the next page. By the time I was done reading the footnote, I had forgotten much of what I read of the book leading up to the footnote. I found most of them unnecessary, some could have perhaps covered in ...more
John Kissane
Given an extra star because of Julian Barnes' wise and stylish introduction. This is a short book, a book of fragments. Anyone interested in reading about sickness would do far better to read Anatole Broyard's Intoxicated By My Illness.
Daudet chronicles his agonizing decline due to tertiary stage syphilis. And interesting little book that is neither depressing nor a long bore of symptoms and complaints. If you have no sympathy for hypochondriacs, this will definitely not change your mind any.
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Alphonse Daudet (13 May 1840 – 16 December 1897) was a French novelist. He was the younger brother of Ernest Daudet. He was married to Julia Daudet and the father of Léon Daudet, Lucien Daudet and Edmée Daudet, all writers.

Aphonse Daudet was born in Nîmes, France. His family, on both sides, belonged to the bourgeoisie. The father, Vincent Daudet, was a silk manufacturer — a man dogged through life

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