Living with illness

Together and alone facing severe illness in four Scandinavian cancer stories


  • Linda Nesby



In this paper, I wish to discuss how people living with severe illness at home depict their lives either in a family setting or alone. Roland Barthes writes in Comment vivre ensemble (1977) about individual life lived in a variety of collective situations in different settings, and calls this idiorrhythmia. One of the settings Barthes studies is the sanatorium, where the figures of Autarky and Clôture, implying living together and living alone, are made relevant. I will use the concept of idiorrhythmia, to discuss ill people living at home either alone or together with relatives. The discussion is based on four contemporary Scandinavian novels: Lars Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper (1978), Ragnar Hovland’s A Winter’s Journey (2001), Gunnhild Corwin’s Ida’s Dance (2005) and Ellisiv Stifoss-Hanssen’s Let me sleep until this is just a dream (2014). These novels describe young and old adults suffering from cancer, staying at home and the challenges and strategies involved in living together or alone while experiencing severe illness.





Nesby, L. (2019). Living with illness: Together and alone facing severe illness in four Scandinavian cancer stories. Tidsskrift for Forskning I Sygdom Og Samfund, 16(31).