Slash Marat:
I recently had occasion to write a letter to an acquaintance who had taken an interest in a subject that is unrelated to the material here.  I recalled the movie Marat/Sade portraying the murder of Jean-Paul Marat in his bathtub where he was soaking in medicinal water treating a painful skin condition.  Maybe the title should have been Charlotte Corday/Marat.  Marat was a figure in the French Revolution, which had then resulted in the execution of over a thousand, and the woman who killed him evidently thought he was responsible. 

He is thought to be suffering from “dermatitis herpetiformis,” which means a skin outbreak resembling that of a herpes virus.  One form of herpes can cause chickenpox, which is not at all like what Marat had.  It can also, in later life, cause shingles, rather more like what Marat had.  So we can say that what he had was something like shingles.  Dermatitis herpetiformis is a complication of celiac disease, which is an intolerance to gluten manifested by GI symptoms.  I have never heard of Marat having diarrhea, so I find that casting a serious shadow over the diagnosis.  But shingles-like – I can buy that. 

I have heard it said by some fellow medical student, which one I now forget, that the rash was a psychosomatic reaction to the guilt Marat felt for his responsibility in starting the executions of the revolution.  His murderer thought so, so it’s not too far fetched.  In fact, 1,600 had been executed at the time of the murder but over the next year or two that number went up 25 fold.  So if she killed him to prevent further deaths, it was one of those undertakings that did not work out so well.  

I used to wonder from time to time how I could be working on a project as distressing as mine is without going quite mad.  Really I cannot think of anything anybody ever did that had so much hanging on it, unless you consider religions that try to save the immortal soul; I can’t match that one.  Otherwise I am doing what no mind can ever have been prepared for by natural selection.  Something ought to give.

Then I came down with either shingles or something that is a lot like it.  So maybe Marat and I have had the same psychosomatically induced disease.  Can’t say I have had a lot of women visiting me in the bath, though, so maybe not. 

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