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"The Hypochondriac in the Landscape" by Walter Benjamin


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BOMB magazine has a new translation of a short fiction piece by Walter Benjamin entitled “The Hypochondriac in the Landscape.” Written between 1906 and 1912, the story is strange, dense, and allegorical. Here’s an excerpt:

The beautiful summer nights were used for sleeplessness. Nevertheless, the patients were awoken as early as five am for their morning diagnosis. Monday and Friday mornings were devoted to testing for anxiety; Sundays were for nightly indigestion. Thereafter ensued six hours of psychoanalysis. Subsequently hydrotherapy, which was administered telepathically due to the water, which tended to be wet and cold throughout most of the year. There followed a break at noon. It was dedicated to telephone consultations with European luminaries and to the theoretical exploration of diseases that have hitherto remained untargeted.

The meals are served in a chemically cleansed Bazillopher, [a neologism coined by Benjamin which plays on the word “Bazille,” meaning “germ” or “bacteria.”] surrounded by ether and camphor fumes. The physicians oversee the procedure with a loaded rifle in order to slay any attacking germs. After being checked for various pathogens, the germs are doused with hot water, anatomically dissected, and killed. They then either appear on the supper table or in the exhibition rooms of the library, which contains the directory, description, danger and cure for all the diseases weathered by the patients to date.

For the twenty-fifth anniversary of each disease, a splendid monograph with cinematographic images is published. The library is open to patients between four and five every day and serves, above all, to incite new illnesses.

Image via BOMB.