On Being Ill

how astonishing, when the lights of health go down

Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill (1926)

I’ve got bronchitis. My doctor gave me some medicine, I treated myself to some reading – just to relieve discomfort

  • Bronchitis is an acute inflammation of the air passages within the lungs. It occurs when the trachea (windpipe) and the large and small bronchi (airways) within the lungs become inflamed because of infection or irritation from other causes.
  • By far, the majority of cases of bronchitis stem from viral infections. This means that most cases of bronchitis are short-term and require nothing more than treatment of symptoms to relieve discomfort.

If you, like me, aren’t feeling too well, have a look at Woolf’s great essay On Being Ill, it makes, one can almost say, illness worth while.

I do also recommend Hermione Lee’s newspaper article on the essay.

3 comments on “On Being Ill

  1. I’ve not read Woolf’s ‘On Being Ill’. I must look for it. I read Anne Tyler’s ‘Ladder of Years’ after you wrote abut it, and then Anita Brookner’s wonderful ‘A Closed Eye’ when you wrote about Brookner. Both books about loneliness and the feeling that your life has taken you over. Then, when I ran out of books to read while I was away, I read Carson McCullers’ classic ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ which was on my host’s bookshelves. You ache as you read it. It is THE novel about loneliness. So moving. But I think that’s about as much loneliness as I can take for a while.

    Get well

    • Thank you!
      I haven’t read McCullers. Sounds like I should.
      “On Being Ill” is not at all depressive, rather it talks about the underestimated aspects of not doing like everybody else. It’s actually refreshing and liberating.

  2. I hope you are feeling better! I would love to read what Woolf essay at some point, and I’m surprised I haven’t gotten to it yet. She’s wonderful on whatever she chooses to write about.

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