She mentions Proust. There are often sickly protagonists but usually not too sick. All I can think of is Dostoyevsky. Feverishness (emotionally brought on, it seems) is most common — again it goes with the sickly tortured characters. Epilepsy is more unique to him.
The public would say that a novel devoted to influenza lacked plot; they would complain that there was no love in it–wrongly however, for illness often takes on the disguise of love, and plays the same odd tricks. It invests certain faces with divinity, sets us to wait, hour after hour, with pricked ears for the creaking of a stair, and wreathes the faces of the absent (plain enough in health, Heaven knows) with a new significance, while the mind concocts a thousand legends and romances about them for which is has neither time nor taste in health.
We have no language for health or lack of health. This is why you go to the doctor and can’t explain yourself and end up saying “What does that question mean?” more than anything else!
About sympathy for example–we can do without it. That illusion of a world so shaped that it echoes every groan, of human beings to tied together by common needs and fears that a twitch at one wrist jerks another, where however strange your experience other people have it too, where however far you travel in your own mind someone has been there before you–is all an illusion. We do not know out own souls, let alone the souls of others. Human beings do not go hand in hand that whole stretch of the way.
It’s true, I think. Illness is never just “This is the illness.” It’s “This is the illness and how it impacts my emotions, my love, my psyche. These are my emotions, my love, my psyche and how they impact my illness.” I’m a big fan of all these nervous illnesses but there’s never anything concrete or self contained.
“Illness makes us disinclined for the long campaigns that prose exacts.”
Concretely: this is why I read poetry….