Guido Ceronetti trenchantly sifts through the miscellany of fact, legend, folk wisdom, and literary artifice by which cultures past and present have grappled with that most enigmatic of subjects, the human body

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Guido Ceronetti, The Silence of the Body: Materials for the Study of Medicine, Trans. by Michael Moore, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1993.


Drawing on ancient and classical texts, the author offers a study of modern medicine, exploring such topics as medicine's prolongation of life without providing wisdom, and human indifference to moral responsibility.


In The Silence of the Body, the Italian writer Guido Ceronetti trenchantly sifts through the miscellany of fact, legend, folk wisdom, and literary artifice by which cultures past and present have grappled with that most enigmatic of subjects, the human body. Long a student of ancient and classic writings, Ceronetti has culled their texts for the light they shed on the body's mysteries. He has indulged, too, his passion for the bizarre and his gift for sharp and memorable language. The result is a compendium of aphoristic opinions - erudite, outrageous, and cranky - through which Ceronetti seeks to "lift the veil from human things" in a way that doctors of medicine never will. The triumph of medicine and modernity, Ceronetti writes, has been to prolong life without providing wisdom, to break the silence of the body without hearing its voice. The one real illness left is our indifference to moral responsibility: the body "reveals itself only in peace and to philosophers." It is the considerable charm of this book to examine the body - literally, warts and all - and bring us one writer's quirky, challenging view.


Ceronetti draws on European and Asian literature--as well as the literature, religion, and mythology of the Christian, Jewish, and Eastern traditions--in a consideration of medicine at its broadest boundaries. (Readers will have to come well prepared, since Ceronetti assumes they have broad backgrounds.) Much of his material is sexual and scatological, violent, bloody, and cruel--but always with a purpose. Readers will enjoy the uncommon views on common subjects; death is a frequent topic. They will also often be productively jolted when Ceronetti's train of thought brings them to an unexpected outcome. When this collection of thoughts, brief essays, and questions first appeared in Italian, one of the author's friends described it as a "fascinating scrapbook." Fascinating is an understatement. - William Beatty


Idiosyncratic musings by Italian poet, critic, and philosopher Ceronetti, originally published in 1979 and marking the first English translation of his work. Ceronetti, who describes himself as fascinated by medicine and obsessively worried over health, is ``appalled by the passiveness of our bodies... under the scourge of Medicine's will...and dismayed by Medicine's insatiable omnipotence.'' A student of classic and sacred writings, he has perused world literature, ancient to modern, for insights into the human body and human behavior. He shares those here, along with his own melancholy opinions, bizarre memories, sardonic observations, and nightmarish visions. This isn't a continuous text but, rather, a sort of scrapbook of thoughts, sometimes linked together, sometimes not. Occasionally, there are multipage essays, but many entries run only a pithy line or two. Ceronetti can be epigrammatic, cryptic, even poetic--as in his vignette about an aging twosome: ``They were a beautiful couple. Her wealth of varicose veins matched his complete lack of teeth.'' Or in this comment on medical research: ``Pharmaceutical products for dogs and cats should first be tested on men kept in special cages.'' Or: ``Since man is a cancer, his metastasis on other planets should no longer seem so improbable.'' Anglo-Saxon crudities abound, sounding a jarring note amid so many Latin phrases--but whether this reflects Ceronetti's language or that of his translator is unclear. What is clear is that the author has given a great deal of thought to what it means to be human--and that he wishes doctors would do the same. A literary oddity that's compelling yet repellent, amusing yet outrageous. - Kirkus Reviews

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