By Iain Bamforth

ISBN-10: 1784100560

ISBN-13: 9781784100568

ISBN-10: 1784100579

ISBN-13: 9781784100575

During this wide-reaching abecedarium, medical professional and poet Iain Bamforth dissects the clash of values embodied in what we name medicine—never completely a technological know-how and not particularly the artwork it was. Bamforth brings to undergo his adventure of medication from worldwide, from the hightech American clinic of Paris to group well-being centres of Papua, together with his attractive curiosity within the stranger manifestations of scientific issues in terms of paintings, literature and tradition. Drawing at the lives and ideas of a few of Europe’s most
celebrated writers, from Auden to Zola with stop-offs on the likes of Darwin, Kafka, Orwell, Proustand Weil alongside the best way, Bamforth deals insightful and witty diagnoses of the tradition of drugs within the sleek age.

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Indeed, Dr Parpalaid’s 41 anarchism—of the utopian, non-bombing, moralistic kind extolled by Tolstoy—looks mostly like a practical philosophy for smallholders. All of this is old hat to Knock. His ideal of social organisation is a form of hygiene organised around himself as ‘continual creator’ and saviour. His method is finely calculated and carefully organised. He assiduously acquaints himself with the incomes of his clients. Blackboard, anatomical chart and reflecting laryngoscope are used to devastating effect in his surgery.

Yet the play is more than a study of dupery: the Italian philologist Guido Ceronetti noted that all the old satires on medicine and doctors look backwards, over their shoulder; 55 Knock, on the other hand, steps confidently into the future. It is a play that capitalizes on Marx’s idea of tragedy reinstated as farce—except that the farce comes first and the tragedy later. The villain of the piece allows himself a smile just once in the play (or rather the film), while reading the town crier’s mind.

Knock encourages the local schoolteacher, Mr Bernard, to indulge his little obsessive-compulsive tic—‘Do you think, doctor... ’ Mr Bernard’s phobic reaction testifies to the power of a mystery—the invisible germ—caught in the full glare of scientific explanation. No other scientific figure stands with such emblematic clarity in republican France’s sense of itself as the bacteriologist Louis Pasteur—‘le bienfaiteur de l’humanité’. It was, after all, the French Revolution that gave rise to the belief that where a physician worked his cures there could be no clergy, and that illness was a matter for the common weal.

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A Doctor's Dictionary: Writings on Culture & Medicine by Iain Bamforth


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