Showing 141 - 150 of 212 annotations tagged with the keyword "War and Medicine"

Demon in the Freezer

Preston, Richard

Last Updated: May-10-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Investigative Journalism

Summary:

This gripping narrative traces the history of the efforts to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s, the top-level decisions to keep a few vials of it for emergency purposes in American and Soviet freezers, and the reemergence of smallpox not only as a health threat, but as a potential bioweapon of unequaled destructive power. Preston details maverick natural cases that surfaced after worldwide eradication efforts, how it was discovered that undocumented reserves of smallpox were not only being kept, but researched and possibly "weaponized," and how hotly, in the US, teams of scientists and military intelligence personnel debated funding new smallpox research in the US with a view to developing a new vaccine as a defense.

The ethical issues in those debates are unprecedented in the scope of the possible public health threat and the variables that might make traditional vaccination ineffective against the weaponized virus. As in his previous books on biological threats, The Hot Zone and The Cobra Event (see annotation), Preston follows the work and lives of several key scientists and includes scenes from interviews with a variety of persons involved in confronting the political, ethical, and medical dilemmas posed by smallpox research and efforts to track and control it.

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Watson and the Shark

Murray, John

Last Updated: May-10-2003
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Three doctors confront catastrophe during a civil war in a central African country. The physician-narrator is new to the jungle and enticed by the power, risk, and control attached to his role as a trauma surgeon. His friend, Stefan, is a gifted French surgeon with years of experience who advocates a "philosophy of disaster." Chaswick is an eccentric anesthesiologist. Headquartered in a Catholic mission, these medical volunteers operate on a large number of injured refugees, many of them victims of brutal attacks by rebel soldiers and armed civilians using machetes.

While performing surgery, the narrator is shot in the shoulder by a young rebel soldier. The doctor's life is spared due to the resourcefulness of his colleagues. As the three physicians escape with their lives, the hundreds of refugees left behind in the medical mission are presumably being slaughtered.

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Sloan-Kettering

Kovner, Abba

Last Updated: Jan-28-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Abba Kovner wrote these poems during and after his hospitalization at Sloan Kettering for throat cancer. His exile into the world of illness begins as he enters the hospital. "He fell asleep under strange skies" (p. 7) and in the hospital "the silence astounds on all / its many floors."(p. 11) [Throughout the book, Kovner refers to himself in the 3rd person.] He tries to pray: "Is there a prayer for one who prays like him / seething . . . " (p. 15) He decries "the infuriating confidence of the doctors." (p. 21) He celebrates the beauty and magnificence of New York. But then the bad news arrives: "When they told him they were going to cut away his vocal cords / entirely it was merely / a confirmation of what he already knew."(p. 31)

To the brisk, young hospital staff, he is just another patient, nothing but an "ancient shard”: "They could not imagine that this was a man / who had fought the world."(p. 36) Only Norma, the Puerto Rican night nurse, connects with him at a different, more human level. "He blushes / when Norma says: What a lovely / head of hair you have, sir!" (p. 88) As he prepares for the laryngectomy, images from the past invade his consciousness--Christmas Eve, 1941; the Vilna ghetto, where "the lice / got under your skin" (p. 68); and "a shoemaker, his name forgotten" (p. 74). The Holy Guests--the souls of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David--also visit the sick room.

After the surgery, the conspiracy of optimism brings him along, carries him forward: "What a healthy recovery, / they said. And patted him on the shoulder / with admiration: You’re doing fine. Wow!" (p. 85) But this is at best a voiceless recovery: "From the wreckage of his voice / there arose a bubble / a tiny bubble . . . " (p. 101) Eventually, the patient leaves the hospital, leaves New York, and arrives home: "Fearful from the moment of arrival: he / watches the landing that cannot / be avoided, into / the arms / of people who love him . . . " (p. 111) He settles into a routine, lives his life as if there is nothing new, but ends at "An Ending, Unfinished" (p. 126), back at Sloan Kettering. "Where now? He asked himself . . . " What next?

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Responding to the suppression of an historic event barely recalled today--5000 Madrid civilians executed for revolting against the invading Napoleonic French army--Goya painted a monumental canvas. The painter depicts fear and defiance in the enlarged white eyes of the patriots still alive, some shielding their eyes and faces with their hands. Profuse blood seeps from the dead lying in groups all over the ground as the firing squad of well-equipped professional soldiers massed together (only their backsvisible to the viewer), shoot at alarmingly close range unarmed, shabbily dressed peasants.

Strong light from a single lantern illuminates the face and body of one white shirted condemned man on his knees, eyes wide-open, leaning forward, arms outstretched, Christ-like, at the moment he is being shot. The powerless, innocent and grieving victims, next to be sacrificed, are hemmed in by a barren hill behind which looms the outline of barely visible city buildings, including a church.

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Requiem

Akhmatova, Anna

Last Updated: Nov-12-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Summary:

In a preface written in 1957, the author recounts the origin of "Requiem." Akhmatova spent 17 months waiting in line outside a prison in Leningrad for news of her son. One day a woman shivering in the crowd identified Akhmatova and whispered, "Can you describe this?" The poet answered, "I can." This sequence of poems is the result.

In "Dedication" Akhmatova sets the scene: "We rose / and each day walked the wilderness, / trudging through silent streets and square, / to congregate, less live than dead." (p. 101) In this time "when only the dead / could smile . . . " she addresses her son, "At dawn they came and took you away. / You were my dead." (p. 103) For "seventeen months I have cried aloud," but there is no relief, and "nothing is left but dusty flowers, / the tinkling thurible, and tracks / that lead to nowhere." (p. 107)

She addresses death; she welcomes madness: "Already madness lifts its wing / to cover half my soul." (p. 111) In the end the poet's requiem is not only for those who died in Stalin's terror, but also for those who remained alive, for those who waited at the gates: "for all who stood outside the jail, / in bitter cold or summer's blaze, / with me under that blind red wall." (p. 115)

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D Day, 1994

Coulehan, Jack

Last Updated: Nov-11-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this five-stanza free verse poem the speaker, a physician, observes the patient, a young man dying of cancer and suffering pain in the arm he has lost to the disease. The patient watches television, and sees the fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of D Day, the Allied landing in France in World War II. The old soldiers, the war veterans, are enviable for the "honor" provided by the source of their losses and injuries, the sense of meaning that comes from winning a war, which is so unlike the arbitrary and passive suffering of cancer in which, as the speaker says, there's "no honor."

The patient has asked whether a scan would explain the pain in his phantom limb; the physician muses that a scan is the wrong place to look, not just because there is no arm to scan, but because what the cancer patient really lacks is a story which can make sense of and justify his misery. The veterans have such a story. Although they are aging and have suffered, the speaker longs to give his patient "their battles," the sense of significance and value (a story recognized by the whole world, as the TV broadcast indicates) which cancer lacks.

The poet plays with the "D's" of D Day: "deception, danger, death," are all inherent in the world, but seldom accessible to confrontation as they are in war (to this extent war is like the scan, making the sources of pain visible and so manageable). A fourth "D" is added, for "deliverance," implying that the "old men's stories" of battles and victory compensate for their suffering in a way that nothing can for the cancer patient.

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Set in post- World War II Vienna, this movie is "a portrait of postwar corruption and the death of idealism" (Michael Wilmington, in the DVD insert). Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) comes to Vienna at the request of his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). He arrives to find that Harry has been killed in a questionable automobile accident. A police inspector (Trevor Howard) informs Holly that his friend Harry had been involved in racketeering and maybe deserved to die.

Trying to clear the name of his friend, Holly discovers the depth of his friend's evilness--Harry was not a petty thief; he was involved in stealing penicillin from military bases and then selling diluted (and thus ineffective) doses to hospitals. The police inspector convinces Holly to turn on his friend (Harry was not the victim of the automobile accident--another of his cruel deeds!) who is finally killed by Holly in the sewers of Vienna. Of course there is Harry's girlfriend (Alida Valli) who rebuffs Holly and remains true till the end to Harry.

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The Dark Ship

MacLeod, Anne

Last Updated: Nov-11-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Late in 1918, the "Iolaire," a Royal Navy yacht carrying several hundred soldiers home to the Scottish islands of Lewis and Harris, sank in a storm off Stornoway Harbor. Over 240 were drowned, a crushing blow to an island community that had already lost 800 men in the Great War. The "Iolaire" tragedy served as the stimulus for this fictional account of friendship and love in the Hebrides islands during the War of 1914-1918.

At the book's center are three characters who form an emotional and spiritual triangle: Iain, a young poet who survives the European battlefields only to die by drowning in the "Iolaire" on his way home; the beautiful and vivacious Mairi, pregnant with Iain's child, but in reality in love with Callum; and Callum, a small town newspaperman whose disability keeps him out of the army, and who falls head-over-heels in love with Mairi.

Mairi leaves the island and travels to England to have her baby, planting the seeds of a future that we learn about in stages as The Dark Ship moves back and forth in time from 1916 to 1939 to 1996, and the fates of the characters are gradually revealed. In particular, we learn that after his death Iain Murray became world renowned as a soldier poet. Iain, whose friends never knew that he was a writer, left at his death a manuscript of poems, which his friend Callum Morrison arranged to have published in 1919. On the basis of that book, in MacLeod's fictional world Murray has come to rival such great first world war poets as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. (Murray's famous collection, called "A Private View," is appended to the novel.)

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Christ Stopped at Eboli

Levi, Carlo

Last Updated: Aug-28-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Christ stopped at Eboli, say the southern Italians, meaning that they are "not Christian," uncivilized, forgotten, and deprived. Physician, writer, and painter, Levi was arrested and 'exiled' from his home in Turin for opposing Fascism during the Abyssinian war (1935). This is the memoir of his life as a political prisoner under house arrest in a malaria-ridden village in Lucania (Basilicata).

The peasants immediately seek his advice for their ailments, but the two local doctors are jealous, as well as incompetent, and they have him stopped. Grinding poverty, illness, superstition, and despair work on each individual in different ways; but the peasants move with the cycle of seasons and religious festivals. The feast of the black Madonna (Chapter 12) and an unforgettable pig castration (Chapter 19) are vividly described. In the 'atmosphere permeated by divinities' (p. 151), the animal, human, and spiritual spheres combine (Chapters 8, 13, 15).

The closing chapters are a political meditation. Deprivation and isolation make the south an irrelevant and different country to the powerful middle class that runs the Fascist party. In return, Fascism finds no supporters here other than corrupt, petty officials. Levi contends that "the State" of any political stripe will never solve the problems of southern Italy until peasants are involved.

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La Tendresse

Strauss, Ken

Last Updated: May-30-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel begins with a prologue in which the author reports that, while repairing an old chateau he had purchased in the north of France, he discovered a manuscript ("La Tendresse") hidden in one of the chateau's chimneys. Dr. Alain Hamilton, the manuscript's author, had hidden it there, as the German army approached the chateau in 1940. "La Tendresse" was a collection of writings that described Hamilton's early life, especially his experience as a battlefield surgeon in the British army during the First World War. The 80 short chapters that follow, Strauss explains, are an edited and annotated version of Dr. Hamilton's story.

We first meet Alain Hamilton as an adolescent, during an episode of sexual awakening with a girl his own age. Later, we see him as a medical student in Vienna and then as a young married surgeon in London, who has a tender affair with a married nurse. But most of the story takes place at a British Army field hospital, where Dr. Hamilton encounters the senselessness, devastation, and absolute terror of war.

His colleague in this tragedy is Elizabeth, a nurse whose brother and fiancé have died in the fighting. Alain and Elizabeth develop an exquisitely tender, yet unconsummated, intimacy, which ends tragically. After the war, Alain searches healing and consolation, eventually finding a measure of peace in the chateau where he and Elizabeth had once worked together.

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