That’s what lies beneath those professorial words

From Mikhail Bulgakov’s Morphine

18th May

It’s a stuffy night.  There’s going to be a storm.  The black belly in the distance beyond the forest is growing and swelling.  And there it is, a pale and alarming flash.  The storm’s coming.


There’s a book in front of my eyes, and it says in it, regarding abstinence from morphine:

…great anxiety, a state of disquiet and depression, irritability, deterioration of the memory, sometimes hallucinations and, to a limited extent, blackouts…

I haven’t experienced hallucinations, but regarding the remainder I can say: oh, what tame,  banal words, words that say nothing! “A state of depression”!…

No, having fallen sick with this dreadful illness, I warn doctors to be more compassionate towards their patients. It’s not “a state of depression,” but a slow death that takes hold of a morphine addict, as soon as you deprive him of morphine for an hour or two.  The air is insubstantial, it can’t be swallowed … there isn’t a cell in the body that doesn’t thirst … For what? That can be neither defined nor explained.  It short, the man is gone.  He’s switched off.  It’s a corpse that moves, yearns, suffers.  He wants nothing, thinks about nothing but morphine.  Morphine!

Death from thirst is a heavenly , blissful one in comparison with the thirst for morphine.  This is probably the way someone buried alive tries to catch the last, insignificant little air bubbles in the coffin and tears the skin on his chest with his nails.  This is the way a heretic at the stake groans and stirs when the first tongues of flame lick at his feet …

Death – a dry, slow death …

That’s what lies beneath those professorial words “a state of depression”.

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