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If we were to read descontextualizadamente on hurgadores of river, collection of bones, grain brokers of excrement and other scavengers so prodigiously specialized, we would think more in a scenario of collapse of the civilization in which they really belong: the smelly London of the mid-NINETEENTH century, that does not stop growing. Steven Johnson (Washington, 1968) is fixed in something even more unsettling: the city that would hoist the yellow flag in 1854 it was transformed into something complexly organic: in the “ant-hill in the plain,” Wordsworth or in the own Johnson defines directly as “a monster, a sick body”. We are situated in the victorian era: when e l Thames apestó the city of Big Ben for an entire summer, because of an alliance between high temperatures and human waste that was dumped en masse in the river.

With a style that is surprisingly enjoyable, The map ghost alternate disclosure well documented, with shy stretches novelados , even if only to cover the gaps left by those who almost never logs in, and that corresponds with subjectivities; the aspects of life of some of the proper names that are referenced. Highlight of the reverend Whitehead, as well as the doctors Farr and Snow, by starring in the struggle against a plague whose name could come from the Greek word “designating the channels of the roof, evoking the torrents of water discharge after a storm”.

Horror and hope

Johnson has not forgotten Filippo Pacini, who discovered vibrio cholerae in the mucous membranes of the bowel of a sick person, far away from the outbreak, but that same year, and without anyone to make the case. A few days before, in Soho, dr. Snow was trying to demonstrate the presence of this old evil in the water. By then, Broad Street had become in the market of Wuhan of that time and would spend three decades before Robert Koch again isolated the bacterium in a more favorable moment.

The translation of this title from 2006 is not only a book about the epidemic in london cholera of 1854. Also this is how to the plagues and political unrest are likely to follow the same cycles and how the big hatches of the development ground for dynamic contrary to the processes of civilizing: situations of poverty and overcrowding, accumulations unnatural waste, organic or artificial, alienation, and disease. One of the first quotations from the text, of W. Benjamin, sums it up in a forceful manner: “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism”; a statement which makes it inevitable to look to the present with a mixture of horror and hope.