Jonathan Kaplan's life has carried a double imperative. A skillful writer, he is also a trained surgeon, and while others have followed wars from well behind enemy lines, this South African-born journalist has pulled all-night shifts in dressing stations, the outdoor ERs of disaster scenes. The Dressing Station recounts the mad scenes he witnessed at filthy, underequipped war trauma centers from Burma to Mozambique, from Ethiopia to northern Iraq. Anyone who ever believed that only nations pay the costs of war will be startled by this powerful memoir.
Kaplan could have had a lucrative practice as a doctor in England, but he tossed it away to become a battlefield surgeon in some of the world's most remote war zones, including Kurdistan, Mozambique, Burma, and Eritrea. In this refreshingly unsentimental memoir, he offers a vivid look at what it's like to practice medicine in places where there are always too many casualties and not enough resources. His descriptions of surgery are unflinching, and, while the narrative drags when he's away from the front line, he's never away for long. As a result, Kaplan gives us a remarkable self-portrait of the war junkie. He seems most alive when he's reinflating a collapsed lung using only a rubber glove or performing a skin graft with a safety razor, and though he lets us see close up the devastation of modern warfare, he is also painfully honest about the allure that war holds for him. "Part of the experience of being in the line of fire," he writes, "is the incomparable rush of clarity that accompanies it, a liberation from life's ordinary, insidious dread."
Surgeon-cum-journalist and documentary filmmaker Kaplan travels to the edges of the world and back in this confident, gripping debut, a field doctor's tale of life and death on the front lines. Journeying to the Middle East with an offshoot of M decins sans Fronti res (and in the process having much of his medical equipment mistakenly tossed from the back of a Marine helicopter into the mountains in northern Iraq), the South African native confronts the atrocities of the ongoing Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish conflict. Operating on floors, administering medicines by penlight, he saves a handful of refugees and loses many more, casualties "largely the victims of preventable suffering, inflicted by the policies and actions of their fellow humans." As a cruise ship doctor in the South China Sea, Kaplan treats crazed alcoholics and sets bones broken in brawls; later, he becomes a "flying doctor," traveling wherever in the world his surgical expertise is urgently needed. Eventually, he researches occupational contamination in South Africa and Brazil. From Namibia to Mozambique, Burma to Eritrea, Kaplan is an eloquent, observant narrator. And at the heart of these beautifully written adventures, a rich human drama unfolds as Kaplan makes superhuman efforts to uphold the Hippocratic oath: "I might have hoped that it would be possible to take a holiday from war even to have lost interest in it entirely but war, as Lenin had warned, remained interested in me." (Feb.) Forecast: Brave tales of traveling doctors might resonate more these day, as readers consider those who care for Americans and Afghanis in the world's newest war. But Kaplan presents himself not as a hero but as a historian of contemporarystrife here there are none of the syrupy, self-congratulatory reflections that can plague the memoir and the adventure book both. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Trained as a physician in South Africa and London, Kaplan has had an extraordinary professional life as an emergency field surgeon on the front lines of apartheid in Nambia and Zululand, as well as in Kurdistan, Mozambique, Burma, and Eritrea. Between stints on those horrific battlefields, Kaplan served as a hospital surgeon, flying doctor, ship's medical officer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. In this near-swashbuckling autobiography, he attempts to demonstrate his own humanity and professional fulfillment in the face of brutality and pain. Sometimes he focuses on front-line military medicine, other times on how civil war harms animals. Then there is the cruise ship experience, which almost reads like folly among drunken capitalists. Kaplan has indeed led an exciting life, but there's just too much here to absorb; the book lacks a guiding thread. An optional purchase. James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
After studying medicine in his native South Africa, and then in Britain and the US, and working as a clinician and researcher for a decade, Kaplan began travelling as a doctor, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. In his first book, he recounts his life and education, and some of his field experiences in places ranging from Kurdistan, Mozambique, Burma, Brazil, and Eritrea to transit lounges. A memoir, it includes no index or bibliography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
A surgeon's graphic report on frontline medical work in one war-torn landscape of misery after another.