Kore: On Sickness, the Sick, and the Search for the Soul of Medicine

Kore: On Sickness, the Sick, and the Search for the Soul of Medicine

by Andrzej Szczeklik
     
 

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There is a grand tradition of physicians who are also great writers and philosophers. From Copernicus and Paracelsus, to Chekov, Osler and Frankl. And most recently Sherwin Nuland and Oliver Sacks have gained broad readerships and made huge contributions to the way we think and the way we live our lives. Andrzej Szczeklik is entirely worthy to join their company.

Overview


There is a grand tradition of physicians who are also great writers and philosophers. From Copernicus and Paracelsus, to Chekov, Osler and Frankl. And most recently Sherwin Nuland and Oliver Sacks have gained broad readerships and made huge contributions to the way we think and the way we live our lives. Andrzej Szczeklik is entirely worthy to join their company. When his first book, Catharsis, was published in English, critics from Seamus Heaney to Czeslaw Milosz stood to applaud. Now he has followed with an ever deeper and more accomplished book.

It has become unfortunately rare for a scientist or doctor to find his grounding in a broad understanding of literature and the humanities. But in Kore, the author insists that only with a curiosity thoroughly at home in both worlds can one expect to discover what we should mean about sickness and about the soul. No tedious academic, Szczeklik writes with the grace of a poet and the ease of a fine storyteller. Anecdotes drawn from a personal immersion in art, music, and literature are woven with reports on experimental medicine and daily clinical experience. From DNA and the re-creation of the Spanish Flu virus, to contemporary research in genetics, cancer, neurology, and the AIDS virus, from "Symptoms and Shadows," to "Dying and Death," to "Enchantment of Love," every chapter of this book is alive and engaging. The result is a life-affirming work of science, philosophy, art, and spirituality.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
No medical experience necessary: readers need only approach with a love of the human body and an understanding of how it relates to emotion and story. Carrying on a tradition of physician-writers, Dr. Szczeklik (Catharsis: On the Art of Medicine), at one time or another, has written works of poetry, history, philosophy, biology, and theology. He begins by diagnosing the woman in the Raphael painting La Fornarina with breast cancer, going on to explore the history of medicine and question distinctions between ancient theories and modern technology. Finding life defined by NASA and death by medicine, he listens closely when the Polish poet and Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz, nearing his life's end, says: "A new book absolutely has to be written about dying and death." In a rare unambiguous moment, Szczeklik firmly pronounces that doctors need not always tell patients the truth. Otherwise, his fluid stream of consciousness takes precedence over definitive statements and clearly structured chapters, at one point skipping from Greek myths to Norman invasions to Terri Schiavo in just a few particularly memorable pages. Readers may find it difficult to keep up, but few are likely to forget this book. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

Praise for Kore

"An eminent Polish physician reflects on his lifetime practice of medicine. Szczeklik weighs in on the ongoing debate about the compatibility of religion and science, supporting the view of leading geneticist Francis Collins and rejecting the stance of Richard Dawkins, who embraces atheism. [This medication is] a profound celebration of the human spirit."—Kirkus

Library Journal
The late Polish cardiologist Szczeklik (Catharsis: On the Art of Medicine) was a polymath, deeply immersed in art, music, literature, and mythology. Here he writes with characteristic authority, wisdom, and lyricism. Even the title hints at the range of his knowledge: Kore is another name for Persephone, goddess both of the underworld and of the bounty of spring, a powerful and complex metaphor for medicine's duality. It is also Greek for the pupil of the eye, thought by ancient scholars to be the window of the soul. Here Szczeklik writes of this search for the location of the soul, of shamanism, intuition, "love-sickness" and love potions, faith and evolution, as well as more traditional medical subjects such as allergies, genetics, viruses, death and dying, medical ethics, and the frontiers of modern medicine. VERDICT This book will challenge, delight, and inform health-care professionals and serious readers. Combining a scientist's mind with a humanist's heart, Szczeklik offers his readers much to remember and ponder.—Kathleen Arsenault, St. Petersburg, FL
Kirkus Reviews
An eminent Polish physician reflects on his lifetime practice of medicine. Szczeklik (Catharsis: On the Art of Medicine, 2005) weighs in on the ongoing debate about the compatibility of religion and science, supporting the view of leading geneticist Francis Collins and rejecting the stance of Richard Dawkins, who embraces atheism. Szczeklik writes that "while evolution can tell us a lot about how life developed, it cannot answer the profound question about the meaning of life, or why the universe exists." He artfully combines insights from art and religion and speculations on the role that viruses may have played in the origin of DNA, and he sees great hope in the advancement of medicine--e.g., in the treatment of coronary artery disease, organ transplants and the potential of stem-cell research. Szczeklik traces how our definition of death has shifted as we have gained the ability to extend life artificially. The classic criteria--the cessation of "circulation and breathing"--have been supplanted by "irreversible, permanent cessation of brain function." However, these new criteria are also problematic, as evidenced by cases cited by the author--e.g., a man in a vegetative state for 19 years who spontaneously recovered full mental ability or the controversial case of Terry Schiavo. While parents and spouses are involved in the decision on whether and when to declare a person dead, writes the author, "it is usually the mute decision of the doctors." Szczeklik suggests that the soul is capable of being found "somewhere between life and death, health and illness, science and art, and also in love." A profound celebration of the human spirit.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781619020191
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
11/06/2012
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

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