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Volume 96, Issue 2

GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLETTERS
Upon what meat have you fed that you can…

The curser, not the cursed

In “To Sleep, Perchance” (“Chicago Journal,” October/03), Sharla Stewart refers to “Ondine’s Curse” of central hypoventilation as a curse placed on Ondine to “stay awake in order to breathe.”

The reference is inaccurate—Ondine, the sea-nymph daughter of Neptune, had a mortal lover who became unfaithful and was the actual recipient of the curse. The romance and its curse were dramatized by the French playwright Jean Giraudaux, who gave Hans von Witterstien, Ondine’s lover, the following (translated) mellifluous lines: “Since you left me, Ondine, all of the things my body once did by itself, it now does only by special order.... ‘He died,’ they will say, ‘because it was a nuisance to breathe.’”

Sadly, Hans’s fate will probably befall the patient discussed in the U of C’s sleep lab—a patient well diagnosed but whose classical reference was incorrectly attributed.

Richard Woellner, AB’51, SB’53, MD’55
Minnetonka, Minnesota

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