The Story of San Michele
Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction
- Ratzan, Richard M.
- Date of entry: Nov-11-2011
- Last revised: Nov-14-2011
The author takes us on a highly colorful autobiographical tour of his medical career - his personal life never enters this account - from a classical medical education in Paris as a young expatriate Swede (he remains expatriate the entire book) to his internal medicine practice in France, including a tour of Naples as a volunteer during the cholera epidemic of 1881 and his finally settling in Italy. There are also anecdotes - many of them side-splitting and told with uncommon skill - about conducting a corpse back to Sweden, a truly thrilling journey to Lapland, encounters with the legendary Charcot, his return to San Michele whence the book begins with a mythopoetic retelling of his first visit there, and his last years at San Michele as patron of a community (both local and international) and as collector and explorer of the nearby Mediterranean.
For lit med people, this is a treasure: hysteria and its treatment in fin de siècle France, Charcot, a cholera epidemic, medicine in Italy and France in early 20th Century Europe - and more. For writers, this is a book worth reading and re-reading.