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“I am living in my own corpse”—the experience of tuberculosis in poems by A B Šimić
  1. M-A Dürrigl1,
  2. S Fatović-Ferenčić2
  1. 1Old Church Slavonic Institute, Zagreb, Croatia
  2. 2Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Department for the History and Philosophy of Sciences, Division for the History of Medicine, Zagreb, Croatia
  1. Correspondence to:
 M-A Dürrigl
 Old Church Slavonic Institute, Demetrova 11, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia; duerrigl{at}


This paper focuses on seven poems dealing with various aspects of his experience of tuberculosis and uncovers different shades of poetic self within his verses: the notions of self transforming from a helpless child to a ghostly, transparent creature in the secluded world of a hospital ward, and to decaying flesh and “living in a cadaver” are pinpointed. Poetry as creation is the opposite of physical demise; in poetry Šimić finds escape not from the inevitable end, but from suffering. These poems are not confessions of a sick young man; they are relevant works of art touching readers’ sensitivity and imagination. They may be relevant for medical professionals in enabling them to view disease—in this case tuberculosis—in a wider context and to be open to the many and different ways in which the experience of illness can be expressed.

  • pulmonary tuberculosis
  • expressionist poetry
  • literature and medicine
  • body/mind and soul relationship
  • attitude to disease
  • attitude to temporality/dying

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  • iAll the poems and extracts quoted from Šimić’s work have been translated from Croatian by the authors; naturally, some of the rhythm and alliteration have been lost in translation.

  • ii“Actantial” pertains to the level of deep structure in fiction, epic, and sometimes poetry. It conveys different relationships between different characters or actors, or a particular state assumed by an actant in the actantial model (sender, receiver, subject, object, and maybe also helper and opponent). Not only human actors but also ideas and concepts can fulfil the fundamental roles that constitute the actantial model.