The Pestilence

‘For the past several years Asiatic cholera had shown a strong tendency to spread. Its source was the hot, moist swamps of the delta of the Ganges, where it bred in the mephitic air of that primeval island-jungle, among whose bamboo thickets the tiger crouches, where life of every sort flourishes in rankest abundance, and only man avoids the spot. Thence the pestilence had spread throughout Hindustan, ranging with great violence; moved eastwards to China, westward to Afghanistan and Persia; following the great caravan routes, it brought terror to Astrakhan, terror to Moscow. Even while Europe trembled lest the spectre be seen striding westward across country, it was carried by sea from Syrian ports and appeared simultaneously at several points on the Mediterranean littoral; raised its head in Toulon and Malaga, Palermo and Naples, and soon got a firm hold in Calabria and Apulia. Northern Italy had been spared — so far. But in May the horrible vibrios were found on the same day in two bodies: the emaciated, blackened corpses of a bargee and a woman who kept a greengrocer’s shop. Both cases were hushed up. But in a week there were ten more — twenty, thirty in different quarters of the town.’

Death In Venice by Thomas Mann (trans. H.T. Lowe-Porter)

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