Illness, or at least what sociologists used to call “illness behaviour,” is one way people have of controlling one another. For example, I once knew a woman who claimed to be allergic to practically everything. The only water that she could allow to touch her skin was from a certain spa in Germany, and so her husband had to buy huge quantities of it for her to bathe in. As they were living in a remote part of the African bush at the time, this kept him so busy—importation was far from easy—that he had little time or energy left over for the activities to which he was reputed to be inclined.
Dalrymple has met a lot of peculiar characters in his travels, but I don’t remember yet hearing of this one, from his column in last week’s British Medical Journal:
He then relates Aldous Huxley’s 1930 story “Chawdron”. Read the whole thing (subscription required).