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Rübezahl … Dublin’s wild west … Švejk … Skorzeny … This Lovely Life 3rd of February, 2010 POST·MERIDIEM 11:11

Maybe if I write something about Rübezahl, the bearded, male spirit of the Sudeten mountains, I won’t forget who he is a second time (he comes up in Švejk when describing one of the characters). Anyway, I think writing stuff here helps my memory, or at least my memory for non-medical things, so I will attempt not to leave it get remotely as long before I post something again. Also, this isn’t Фейсбук, and it’s good to do online things that are not Фейсбук.

So, I’m still in medical school, it’s still interesting, they’re going a little easier on us (or on me; many of the others in the class had more of a natural sciences background when starting), and we actually had a Christmas holiday worth the name this year, the exams were scheduled before it, not after it. I’m in Blanchardstown, a young suburb of Dublin with a well-furnished hospital, where we attend lectures and go on attachment to various teams, standing around while Actual Doctors solve people’s problems. Have started an application for the USMLE Step 1, intending to take it in early September, and if I can actually manage to register for it (there are, let’s say, local, under-communicated hurdles) I’ll have a very, umm, academic summer.

I read The Good Soldier Švejk, as mentioned above, in German translation by Grete Reiner, and the language was hard going; my German is from Berlin, and the book, very correctly, was translated into an Austrian German. I snorted, and laughed, and I’m glad I read it; I am certain, though, that I missed lots of what would have sent someone with a background closer to Hašek’s into paroxysms of laughter. I’m lucky enough to be able to read Flann O’Brien with that advantage, so I’m regretful that I can’t do it for this.

From Hašek to someone else born in Austria-Hungary, but who couldn’t be more different in allegiances and personality—I followed up Švejk with Otto Skorzeny’s autobiography. Skorzeny, before running a sheep farm in the Curragh, was an enthusiastic Nazi and an excellent soldier, most known for spiriting away Mussolini from the care of the government that succeeded his in Rome. His (Skorzeny’s) intelligence comes through in the text, but it’s clear that he’s doer, not a writer (or perhaps it’s clear that good editors wanted nothing to do with the book!), and he describes fighting a war in an engaged, committed way that no-one in Hašek’s book comes close to. It is a losing war, though, and the tone of the book reflects that in a way that none of the war memoirs in English I read as a teenager do (e.g. the various Colditz books, or Pierre Clostermann’s The Big Show ).

Of the various medical journal papers and columns that came up in my syndication reader over the last few months, this book review struck me, especially; there’s an awful lot of work done these days to keep alive premature babies, which is great when the child is healthy, but when all that work means a child survives who is not going to have any sort of quality of life, who is going to demand years of herculean committment from its parents eventually followed by dying young, and—most relevantly here—when their parents pleaded against the artificial resuscitation of their premature, very low birth-weight twins at their birth, the laws that forced that need some revision. Or maybe hard cases make bad law, but it does seem that the law was actually aimed at this case. Shhh, for a limited time only, the text of the BMJ article is here.

Word of the day: a carminative is an agent that promotes flatulence; the German is Karminativum, the Spanish carminativo.

Last comment from Aidan Kehoe on the 3rd of February at 23:30
And now I realise that part of why I wasn’t posting was that this site is still on MySQL, and its version-incompatibilities in how it deals with character encodings had been driving me mildly crazy. Why I didn’t write it on Postgres in the first place, I do not know.

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