4

In Carbide by Andriy Lyubka (set in Ukraine near the border of Hungary from the post-Soviet 1990s until at least 2012), many people were afraid of the coroner, who had a "horrible reputation" and was rumored to keep company with Satan himself. The text refers to coroners being the subject of superstition and fear:

There's no place in the world where coroners are treated well, but that's especially true for villages and small provincial cities, where superstitions, archaic beliefs, and prejudice are still alive and well.

I'm approaching this from a very U.S.-centric perspective, but I wasn't aware of coroners being especially disliked, feared, mistreated, or the subject of superstition. What is the text referring to here? Did the author had any specific prejudices or archaic beliefs in mind?

2
  • 1
    I don't know of any specific reference going on here, but dealing with the dead has often been seen as an unclean job with unsavory associations (exactly how do they... handle the dead?) and in areas with firm traditional handling of the dead (funeral rites, prayers, ensuring they don't rise, etc), they get the double whammy that they are "interfering with the natural order" with their embalming fluid, facial reconstruction, and sewing eyes shut to make sure they don't pop open during the funeral. Nov 14, 2023 at 13:29
  • And, while I don't have firsthand experience, I've seen a number of anecdotes indicating that being a coroner, particularly in a smaller town, can be a thankless job with little pay, with many people forced to work out of a basement space in their home, and them often getting stiffed, no pun intended, with families unable, or unwilling, to pay for the resulting beautiful corpse. Kind of parallels veterinarians, where people get into it out of a genuine desire to help, and then get trapped under school debt, investment in supplies, and lack of payment. Nov 14, 2023 at 13:31

1 Answer 1

4

Speaking as a fellow American, I don't find this odd, hard to understand, or unexpected. Death, in general, is a disliked, feared, and superstition-inspiring subject, something that can easily be expected to extend to those so closely associated with it.

A coroner is not the same as a gravedigger, but Wikipedia has this to say on the subject of gravediggers:

In several societies worldwide, gravediggers are often drawn from the lowest social class or caste, and regarded as unclean. In India, gravediggers and related professions have traditionally been drawn from among the Untouchables. In feudal Japan, gravedigging was one of the "unclean" professions historically allotted to the Burakumin class. Other examples can be found in Ancient Egypt and elsewhere. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravedigger

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.