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The TLS Book Review: 'Cytomegalovirus'

27th February 2016

In the February 19th issue of The Times Literary Supplement (TLS), Patrick Pollard reviews HervĂ© Guibert’s book, Cytomegalovirus: A Hospitalization Diary, translated by Clara Orban, “which recounts [Guibert’s] time in the hospital […] despite the tragic end it gave to his life.”  

Guibert was a prominant French literary figure, who died of AIDS in the early 1990s. Currently, there is a renewed interest in his writings as well as the history of early years of the AIDS crisis in the United States and Europe.  In this edition, it includes an introduction from French literary scholar and AIDS activist, David Caron, as well as a critical afterword from medical anthropologist Todd Meyer.

Pollard writes in his review, that “Guibert’s diary is matter-of-fact, relating in a somewhat nonchalant way the tribulations of life in a hospital where the nurses are kind but distant, the equipment poor, the hygiene inadequate, but the routine of intravenous drips and so forth imperative.”  While these where the issues occurring during Giubert’s time, Pollack says that Caron describes how “the problem in the twenty-first century is the muted way in which sexual difference is treated.”  Both of the above topics are heavily referenced and discussed in Cytomegalovirus.

It is remarkable how through all of Guibert’s suffering, “his terse and banal text can be read as a powerful protest against the denial of any individual’s humanity.  Or self-pity and of anger against Fate there is little trace.”  He “did not shrink from naming the cruder aspects of the functions of the human body,” which makes his diary entries truly ground-breaking.

To read the full review, you can do so here.

You can check out Cytomegalovirus and other similar works right here, at Fordham Press’ website.