Diary of a Modern Consumptive by former TB patient, Paul Thorn, tells a remarkable story of survival. In 1995 Paul was infected in an outbreak that occurred at a West London hospital with a Multidrug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. He spent three months in negative pressure isolation and was not expected to live. Whilst cut off from the world, he kept a journal. Aged only 24 years, he was about the same age as Keats when he died from the disease. His predicament caught the imagination of the UK press and the public began to write letters to him.
Diary of a Modern Consumptive follows an artistic tradition. In centuries gone by tuberculosis made a major impact on the artistic world. Artists offered their own commentaries on the disease through painting, poetry and opera. ‘Consumption’ was almost a defining feature of 19th Century Romanticism. Literature was also inspired by tuberculosis. Writers such as the Bronte sisters, Chechov, John Keats, D.H Lawrence, Robert Louis Stevenson, Katherine Mansfield and George Orwell (to mention only a few) all wrote about it. The truth is that the impact of tuberculosis on literature was merely a reflection of the savagery of the disease. It’s course is insidious, some took months or years to die from it, gently consumed until drowning on the bloody contents of their lungs.
Paul’s book is a modern take on some of the most compelling ‘consumptive’ literature ever written. It brings the experience of having the disease up-to-date and includes excerpts from his diary, the letters sent to him, and the reaction of the UK media at the time.
Foreword by Jennifer Furin, MD., PhD. Harvard Medical School, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine