Literary Vignettes - Hektoen International

Doctor Thorne, a country apothecary

Image from The Writings of Anthony Trollope, vol. 5 (1900). Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr. Public domain. Anthony Trollope is one of the few popular British novelists of the nineteenth century who is still widely read. He wrote some forty novels, notably the Palliser series about parliamentarian politics, and the Barchester stories with their […]

James Joyce’s Ulysses and the human experience

Mateja Lekic Phoenix, Arizona, United States   Cover of Ulysses, first edition. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. Ulysses is a novel that explores universal themes of the human experience. A modern retelling of the Odyssey, it follows Leopold Bloom during his encounters on the streets of Dublin in a single day. Each episode loosely follows in […]

A doctor of the old school

“The apparition of a god would not have caused more commotion… “He belonged to that great school of surgery begotten of Bichat, to that generation, now extinct, of philosophical practitioners, who, loving their art with a fanatical love, exercised it with enthusiasm and wisdom. Everyone in his hospital trembled when he was angry; and his […]

Love and syphilis: The marriage of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

Nicolas Roberto Robles Diego Peral  Caceres, Spain   Figure 1. Portrait of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. Valeriano Domínguez Bécquer. Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. ¡Cuánta nota dormía en sus cuerdas, como el pájaro duerme en las ramas, esperando la mano de nieve que sabe arrancarlas! How many notes sleep in its […]

The role of doctors in the intellectual life of Spain

“One of the aspects of Spanish intellectual life which struck me repeatedly was the fact that civic leadership so often rested in the hands of medical men. They wrote the best books, made the most daring statements and were revered as the elements of society that could be trusted to support good movements. The doctors […]

Famine and illness in War and Peace

The Pavlograd regiment had lost only two men wounded in action, but famine and sickness had reduced their numbers by almost half. In the hospitals death was so certain that soldiers suffering from fever, or the swelling caused by bad food, preferred to remain on duty, dragging their feeble legs to the front, rather than […]

Suicide: always a tragedy?

JMS Pearce Hull, England   The tragedy of suicide is well expressed in “The romantic suicide: Karoline von Günderrode” by Nicolás Roberto Robles.1 We all try hard to understand this act. Self-destructive urges are an ubiquitous but often ignored or suppressed aspect of all human life. But what makes a person take their own life […]

The romantic suicide: Karoline von Günderrode

Nicolás Roberto Robles Badajoz, Spain   Figure 1. Karoline von Günderrode portrait. Unknown artist. Via Wikimedia. No known restrictions on publication. Suicide, often occurring as an impulsive gesture or from underlying depression, has long been an important cause of death among young people, as exemplified within recent memory by the wave of suicides that followed […]

August Von Platen, inspiration for Death in Venice

Nicolas Roberto Robles Bandajoz, Spain   Figure 1. Portrait of August Graft von Platen. Unknown Author – Holzstich 1879 In Gustav Adolf von Klöden: “Unser Deutsches Land und Volk” (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München/Porträtsammlung). Via Wikimedia. Public Domain. Weil da, wo Schönheit waltet, Liebe waltet Because where beauty reigns, love reigns – Sonette aus Venedig.   August […]

Who is “Dr. Filth”?

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Child survivors of Auschwitz, wearing adult-size prisoner jackets, stand behind a barbed wire fence. The group includes a few twins. Still from the Soviet Film of the liberation of Auschwitz by the film unit of the First Ukrainian Front-Alexander Voronzow. 1945. Via Wikimedia. Public Domain. Bob Dylan’s song “Desolation Row” […]