Ulrike Moser in Yaroslavl
Nikolay Nekrasov Yaroslavl Scientific Library annually arranges the Yaroslavskoe Knizhnoe Obostrenie Book Fair. This year, which is the Year of Germany in Russia, the book Tuberculosis. The Other Story of German Society by Ulrike Moser was presented at the fair with the participation of the author herself and translator of the book, Anna Kukes. The book was published in 2021 by the New Literary Observer publishing house and became a bestseller during the pandemics era.
Together with Ulrike Moser and Anna Kukes, Yaroslavl readers discussed changes in attitude towards tuberculosis that has been accompanying humankind throughout its history, when it was first called a sublime disease of geniuses and angel-like girls, then turned into the source of profit for mountain resorts, and finally became the malicious ulcer of the urban lower classes. During the Third Reich, Nazi’s postulates on degeneration and race purity deprived tuberculous sick of any hope: they were mass killed or subjected to cruel medical experiments. Using vast historical materials, the author traces the history of German society through the lens of tuberculosis.
I had no idea of the many aspects affected by the disease: literature, biographies, art, classical history, medicine, and even architecture, as well as its political dimension.
In Germany, the book was published in 2018, but only attracted interest of the medical community, while at present the interest in it changed, and the book is being regarded as an up-to-date story of an epidemics. Of course, there are differences from current coronavirus pandemic: tuberculosis develops slower, but “the common point is that inequality increases. Epidemic escalates inequality. People need protection, and the society needs solidarity. One should learn from the history”, as the author highlighted.
Ulrike Moser is a German historian working for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
Anna Kukes is a Germanist, translator, PhD in Philology, assistant professor at the Germanic Philology chair of History and Philology Department of RSUH.