Author: gm1543


The topic of young teenagers who contract abnormal diseases through unprotected sexual interaction became more and more popular in the modern cinematography. The movie Contracted (2013) is one of them; it tells about the terrible viral disease that plagues a young woman Samantha after she spends a night with a random stranger after a wild party. When at first the symptoms seem to be a usual sexual infection, eventually they turn out into a nightmare… Samantha’s story in Contracted parallels the story of Keith in Black Hole: both characters experience the seclusion from society due to the severity of their mutations.

“Contracted is the one that will make them think twice before having sex” James Shotwell, Under the gun review

Here is the trailer of the movie, enjoy: Contracted!

Reality of being AIDS infected in Africa

In the novel Welcome to our Hillbrow Mpe discusses the issues of AIDS, xenophobia directed toward West Africans and black migrant workers in general, witchcraft, and the sometimes devastating consequences of gossip. As I was reading the book, I was constantly recalling my experience in Africa. During the recent Public Health seminar in Ethiopia we had an opportunity to work with Maiden centre that provides social service to the underprivileged, and AIDS/Leprosy/Tuberculosis infected people. I had a chance to interview three women, to learn their stories, and to know how does the Centre assist them with their burden. Here is a narrative of one of the women that I would love to share with you:

“My name is Alimtu (Seasye). I am a single mother with three kids from a small village – Agaki. I learned about Maiden center from Alert Hospital. Thanks to the Maiden center for bringing me back to life. I was almost on the edge to death that even my funeral arrangements were discussed couple years ago… But now I am a happy woman, and feel blessed for everything I have. And this is my story of renaissance:

After I gave a birth to my third child terrible things started to happen with me in a sequence: my husband passed away, I had the first signs of the mysterious disease on my legs that made the whole community to avoid me: they had a prejudice that my injured leg is a sin from God, and also the fact that I am “contagious” might be a reason as well. Nobody knew what was the reason of the skin-rush exactly, and the only treatment I received was the holy water from the church. My health condition even worsened within a time; I was terribly sick that stayed in bed for almost six months. I couldn’t walk; doctors in the village were discussing to do amputation of my leg. But it was not the worst thing I heard, I was more heart-broken when my native brother screamed at me once, saying that I am sick and not like others, hence I shouldn’t live with them anymore.

It hurt my feeling a lot, so I decided to run away from my home. I walked miles and miles with my injured leg caring my six months old baby with me from my village to get to the nearest bus station. I made it to Addis Ababa, and Maiden center did it best to provide me medical, financial, and moral support. They found us a place to stay, gave us nets, beds, mattresses, and all other commodities. I learned the diseases that I had were AIDS along with leprosy, and I was consulted with the ways it can be treated. My children were supported as well with all the essentials for school, like uniforms and books. Both of my daughters, who are 13 and 5 years old, go to school here in Addis, while my other son who is 9 years old decided to finish school in Agaki. All of my children are obedient and outstanding students. I want them to receive full education, be independent in the future, and be able to take care of themselves. My elder daughter wants to become a doctor, and the younger – a teacher. Thanks to the treatment that I received at Maiden center: I can walk and make some profit for my family by selling soaps in the streets.

I believe in and love God. I know everything is in God’s plan, and I pray that he will cure me. As long as I live, I will make sure we take the pills. Everything is the will of God; pills are the will of God. I think about what will happen to my daughter if I die, but thoughts are nothing. Everything is God’s will. I am grateful beyond measure, and I am grateful also to speak about the experience.

Is Miranda a representation of Anne Porter?

From the very first sentences of reading the Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939) the author, Anne Porter, grabs our attention by getting insight of the novel’s protagonist, Miranda. If I didn’t know that the novel was a fiction, I would assume that we are reading a real person’s notebook: the emotions, feelings, experiences of being sick are described so vividly that it is impossible that the author of the book did not experience it personally.

An American writer Katherine Anne Porter is the first female writer that we read so far in our class who wrote about the disease, and its aftermath. It is an amazing contrast to the male writers of her generation who I tend to associate more with “war writing” and all of the noble ideas attached to war. The horror of the World War I is not at all the same here – I suppose I had believed all people who lived through the Great War felt noble and destroyed about it, but Porter presents a much more cynical attitude. The author keeps a restrained tone in her writing most of the time, but there are moments of pathos and power, especially when we get into the mind of the protagonist.

Miranda is a young woman, who works for a newspaper during the last year of the WWI when the tragic flu epidemic killed millions. She is alive, but not living. She dines and dances with a soldier she loves, but knows that the relationship is pointless as he is being shipped overseas in a few days. Then Miranda herself catches the illness, and her suffering is narrated through several bizarre and horrific dreams: “…She floated into the darkness, holding his hand, in sleep that was not sleep…and angry dangerous wood full of inhuman concealed voices singing sharply like the whine of arrows…” (191, Porter). Although on the verge of death, Miranda has a “beatific vision” that alienates her from life itself. If we look at the biography of the author, we may assume that Porter describes her own near-death experience with the virulent flu virus:

“In 1915, Anne Porter was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent the following two years in sanatoria, where she decided to become a writer… Katherine almost died in Denver during the 1918 flu pandemic. When she was discharged from the hospital months later, she was frail and completely bald. When her hair finally grew back, it was white, and remained that color for the rest of her life. Her experiences during treatment provided the background for her long story Pale Horse, Pale Rider.”


Based on the quote above, we can conclude that Anne Porter conveyed her own inner feelings during the disease through her fictional character –Miranda.



I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy…

Team Pushkin was given the beautiful gift of a person who speaks Russian, so our post used this expertise in our approach to this piece. Here is what we learned. Enjoy.

Translations and imitations are among the large number of works of Alexander Pushkin. These works make up about a fifth of all the works of Pushkin, and can rightly be called magnificent samples of his genius, although they are borrowed from other authors. This is what Pushkin writes on this matter: “Imitation is not shameful kidnapping or a sign of mental poverty, but a noble hope of own strength, a hope to discover new worlds, seeking the footsteps of the genius — or even more sublime feeling: the desire to explore your masterpiece and give it a secondary life”.

A Feast During the Plague (1829) is one of the most famous Pushkin’s “Little Tragedies.” Pushkin’s masterpiece was even adapted to a movie. This the scene where Mary sings.

The originality of Pushkin’s play is still debated among lot of Russian scholars; they argue whether Pushkin’s play is simply a translation of John Wilson’s The City of the Plague (1816) or an independent Pushkin masterpiece. We, Team Pushkin, as “linguistic researchers”, examined three versions of the Plague narrations (Wilson’s, Pushkin’s, and the translation of Pushkin’s work by Anderson) and came up with the conclusion that the last two works slightly differ in terms of word choice and punctuation from the original text, but overall they accurately convey the basic content of the source plays. Here is the example:

Wilson’s The City of the Plague (1816)


O impious table! Spread by impious hands!
Mocking with feast and song and revelry

The silent air of death that hangs above it,
A canopy more dismal than the Pall!
Amid the churchyard darkness as I stood
Beside a dire interment, circled round
By the white ghastly faces of despair,
That hideous merriment disturb’d the grave
And with a sacrilegious violence
Shook down the crumbling earth upon the bodies
Of the unsheeted dead. But that the prayers
Of holy age and female piety
Did sanctify that wide and common grave,
I could have thought that hell’s exulting fiends
With shouts of devilish laughter dragg’d away
Some harden’d atheist’s soul into perdition.

Pushkin’s A Feast During the Plague

Безбожный пир, безбожные безумцы!
Вы пиршеством и песнями разврата
Ругаетесь над мрачной тишиной,
Повсюду смертию распространенной!
Средь ужаса плачевных похорон,
Средь бледных лиц молюсь я на кладбище –
А ваши ненавистные восторги
Смущают тишину гробов – и землю
Над мертвыми телами потрясают!
Когда бы стариков и жен моленья
Не освятили общей, смертной ямы –
Подумать мог бы я, что нынче бесы
Погибший дух безбожника терзают
И в тму кромешную тащат со смехом.

Anderson’s A Feast During the plague


A godless feast, befitting godless madmen!
Your Feasting and your shameless songs
Mock at  and profane the gloomy peace
Spread everywhere by death and desolation!
Amidst the horror of the mournful burials
Amidst pale faces I pray at the graveyard,
And your hateful shouts and cries of revelry
Disturb the silence of the tomb – because of you,
The earth itself trembles over the dead bodies!
If the prayers of so many reverend men and women
Had not consecrated the common gravepit,
I would have thought that devils even now
Were torturing some ruined, godless soul,
Laughing as they dragged it to outer darkness.

In all three texts we can see the following pattern of the language use:

Archaic English → Simplified Russian version of the play –> Translation of the simplified Russian version 

Moreover, we can regard A Feast During the Plague as independent work simply because it is not the word-by-word translation of the whole of Wilson’s play, but only a part of it. And why did Pushkin choose exactly this scene from all the play?

According to the Russian scholar, Leo Polivanoff, Pushkin generally chooses to translate to his native language only the brightest part of the original foreign work. This is what happened with A Feast During the Plague: Pushkin chose from all the play the part that interested him most, and thus shifted the focus from describing the horrors of the plague to the conflict.

As for the sources of the tragical story, some evidence indicates that Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) actually inspired John Wilson to write a play. Another famous Russian scholar Yakovlev wrote: “The book of Defoe influenced someone who in turn was a source of inspiration for Pushkin — an English writer John Wilson”. In addition, Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year  was also found in the library of Pushkin, and perhaps he read it as well.

We can definitely notice the resemblance between the play A Feast During the Plague and the tavern scene, where people partied and behave atheistically, in A Journal of the Plague Year. Both scenes essentially have the same settings and major actors. Both scenes are happening at a tavern and the major actors all involves a dead-cart, group of jesting people, and a godly or moral man that tries to correct the group’s way. In fact, even the plot progresses in a similar manner, with the moral person failing to change the behaviour of the group. However both pieces differ in the perspective that the story is told. Pushkin told the story in the form of a play and therefore gave us the perspective of both the priest and the group while Defoe told the story from the perspective of H.F., the moral person.

Given the amazing thread of a creative work such as this one, we could not help but make the connection of a traveling text and a traveling plague. Specifically, the way in which the nature of the plague transforms through communication. The Russian version was slightly more explicit than either of the English versions, be it the original work or the translation. The author’s taste is key. With talk about any sort of contagion, the details one chooses to express or omit will affect hordes of people’s actions and perceptions when it come to the given contagion.The telling and retelling of the horrors of the contagion gives people a sense of agency and authority in a situation that renders them helpless and subject to whatever may come. But to get back to the situation of the authors at hand, their adaptations of this story in effect becomes their own once they allow it to pass through their analytical lens. Thus, the foundational idea may not be original, but the products still stand as a one worth recognizing, one of a unique analytical lens.

So we say go ahead Pushkin, recreate with your bad self.