I’ve been feeling better, without a fever for about three days. Now it’s more like a prolonged post-flu effect, with vague pains in my body and especially fatigue. I am a restless person, but I have no energy even to straighten the room where I’ve been confined. It’s a mess. I open the window, close the window. I regularly change my robes. I go to one of our bathrooms wearing a mask. For the past seven days, life has come down to this. Right now, isolation is necessary for the protection of others, and does not last forever.
I feel less anxious. I am withdrawing from social networks and the excesses of the news. Last night I fell asleep early in the middle of relaxating, and woke up around 5 AM. I watched the sun rise, and took paracetamol and a warm bath to relieve the terrible exhaustion in my body I.
I watched the Brazilian film ‘Floradas na Serra’, from 1951, directed by the Italian Leonardo Salce. A socialite from São Paulo, Lucilia (Cacilda Becker), is admitted with tuberculosis to a chic sanatorium in Campos do Jordão. The girls are pale and unhappy, despite a certain emancipated attitude. They wear wonderful slim-waisted clothing from the 50s, and live on the margins of society. The most rebellious of them smoke in secret, and one of them has a drinking problem. The film is based on a novel by Dinah Silveira de Queiroz, the second woman to occupy a seat at the Brazilian Academy of Letters. There was also a television adaptation. Dinah’s mother and grandmother had tuberculosis, and they say she was obsessed with the disease.
There is an interesting moment when Lucilia helps the doctor administer medication to one of the patients at the sanatorium. She is apprehensive about the patient’s condition. He says: “What do you expect from me? A miracle? I’m just a doctor. ” Lucilia breaks out and tries to escape back to her urban life. She waits for the train at the station bar when Bruno (Jardel Filho), a handsome man, comes in. He has the air of an intelligent predator. He orders a brandy. French. The waiter says he only has Brazilian brandy. I thought to myself, Presidente Cognac? She misses the train, things of destiny.
Bruno is a poor and ambitious writer who came to treat his tuberculosis in a public hospital in the region. Lucilia says that she too is ‘sick’. He comments, however, that she is rich, and says that he himself is ‘poor, sick, full of resentments’. The dialogue is wonderful, and still current, especially in Brazil, where the coronavirus epidemic has in a certain sense checked the great social and economic inequality in the country. But the film’s themes are of a different order: romantic-tragic, more an unhappy romance than anything else. And it is still a kind of literary documentation of tuberculosis and its treatment in Brazil.
Here in Europe it is springtime. From my window, I see flowers blooming in the street. I imagine the stories that are arising and that will arise from the midst of this pandemic, where no one is safe from change. The world is no longer, will never be exactly the same. I also think of people with serious manifestations of COVID-19 in hospitals around the world. I think of their distressed families. My symptoms are mild, the fatigue will pass, and soon I will be back at my job, and I will be fighting. Just another doctor. The philosopher Paul Preciado recently pointed out that the miracle will only really come when scientists finds the cure for the coronavirus. And so it has been with other pandemics throughout history.
Translated by Chris Daniels