Narrative Medicine Book Club: April 29, 2020

Today’s pages bring the beginning of the end of the plague. There is no clear reason for the plague’s demise; “one merely had the feeling that the disease had exhausted itself, or perhaps that it was retiring after achieving all of its objectives. In a sense, its role was completed.” Of course our own plague is far from over, but Camus’s description of the townspeople’s impatience with their hope still resonates, as we begin to wrestle with our own impatience and surmise about plans for how to live in the meantime. Our path out of this will not be as simple as that of the folks in Oran; still, one does hope for the day that we might smile in the street.  

FOR TOMORROW: Next 7 pages, to paragraph beginning “The doctor said that the same was true of Tarrou…” 

Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT April 29th 2020

Thank you to everyone who attended our session. We were fortunate to have participants from all across the globe — Germany, Italy, Portugal, UK, India, USA, and Bahrain!

This week, we discussed Marc Chagall’s painting “Paris through the window” (1913) (posted below). Our discussion was dynamic and multi-faceted, with a wonderful amalgamation of  perspectives. Participants spoke of the binaries present in the painting — between reality and fantasy, the waking state and the dream-like, the world outside and inside, the past and future, the dark and light. Others called attention to the vibrant colors, the caricature of the human-faced cat, the upside-down train, the flowers growing forth from the chair, and the two-faced “Janus” figure. We noticed how that figure and the cat were together yet looking elsewhere, and we wondered what the Janus figure was seeing, crowded down in the corner. We also considered the meaning of the horizontal figures. People connected the chaotic, otherworldly nature of the image to our current situation, and we considered the artist’s flight from Russia, as well.

Our prompt was: Write about looking through a window. In response to our prompt, participants spoke about seeing the future through the window as well as gleaning reminders of the past. Participants spoke of imagining people congregating again in groups, offering optimism and hope for our own future. We also heard about the window itself — its form, its movement or lack thereof, and how our perspective can change as we look through it. Other noticed the positioning of the body in experience and space, or spoke of the window as an “incomprehensible other”— something that we find ourselves engaging with more often these days. The responses we heard seemed to be prose, compared to the poetry that has dominated many past sessions.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured. If you chose to draw, your are welcome to share as well, simply email your visual file to and we will add and credit it to the post here.

Please join us for our next session: Friday, May 1st at 7pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Marc Chagall b. 1887, Vitebsk, Russia; d. 1985, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France
Paris through the Window
Oil on canvas
53 9/16 x 55 7/8 inches (136 x 141.9 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris