In this pithy abecedarium, doctor and poet Iain Bamforth takes a close look at the conflict of values embodied in what we call medicine - never entirely a science and no longer quite the art it used to be. Bamforth brings his wide experience of medicine around the world, from the high-tech American Hospital of Paris to the community health centres of Papua, together with his engaging interest in the stranger manifestations of medical matters in relation to art, literature and culture - such as the mysterious 'Stendhal's syndrome', which caused 106 tourists in Florence to be hospitalised due to an overload of sublime Renaissance art.
Iain Bamforth grew up in Glasgow and graduated from its medical school. He has pursued a peripatetic career as a hospital doctor, general practitioner, translator, lecturer in comparative literature, and latterly public health consultant in several developing countries, principally in Asia. His four books of poetry were joined by a fifth, The Crossing Fee, in 2013. His prose includes The Body in the Library (Verso, 2003), an account of modern medicine as told through literature; and The Good European (Carcanet, 2006), a collection of writings on ideas and literature in European history. He is currently working on a collection of aphoristic, fantastic and philosophical stories about medicine conjointly with a book of impressions of Wallacea - the biogeographical name for the various archipelagos between Asia and Australia. Several of his wide-ranging essays and reviews can be read on his website.