The life and work of Semmelweis

by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

APh.D thesis

“It is not men who clash around the tragedy of Semmelweis, but immense biological powers that are locked in combat. The infernalpettiness of which he was the victim possesses the grandeur and inevitability of a war.” (Louis-Ferdinand Céline)

subject —
Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, the 19th-century Hungarian physician who vanquished the puerperal fever that had been causing millions of deaths for centuries, and deserved the gratitude of the whole of humanity, was drivento madness and death by lack of understanding, obtuseness and the derision of the scientific world.

journey     The sole reason for this performance is to share with the public a story with which many of them may be unfamiliar, exploring an important theme of life by means of its highest expression: the theater. So I would like to express my particular gratitude to all those who embarked on this adventure with me.

     Heroes are hidden… The tragic story of Dr. Semmelweis is not a unique case. It is the story of all those who have paid for their ideas with isolation and cruel ostracism.

Dr. Semmelweis appeared before me as a modern tragic hero. His story is not an isolated case.

Stopping, thinking, looking back over some of these fates, expressing our gratitude to these people who lived before us and have changed our lives, recognizing their value and greatness: an obligation which we should not avoid…

Who are the heroes, today? Why do we no longer see them? Something has broken in the old relationship. On the one hand the crowd, acting in accordance with its eternal instinct, revolts and prays, fights and applauds, lynches and mourns, goes off to be slaughtered and dances carefree… What is left of an ancient chorus… On the other an absence in which a few semi-visible figures can be made out with difficulty… The heroes are hidden… Perhaps Dr. Semmelweis is one of these tragic modern heroes… A chorus of despairing women had gathered in the hope of salvation. (Marina Spreafico)

And, for the revival, Arsenale-lab 2006