Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Beware of Pity

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 21 February 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:451
  1. Jerry O’Sullivan, retired histopathologist, Chichester
  1. JerryOSullivan{at}

Stefan Zweig’s novel Ungeduld des Herzens (literally “The Heart’s Impatience”) is well known as a study of two types of pity, but it is also noteworthy for its portrayal of one of the most iconic doctors in fiction. The action is set in 1914 in a garrison town near Vienna. Edith von Kekesfalva is a rich, pretty, 17 year old girl, who has been left crippled by polio. Initially, her father consulted numerous distinguished physicians, but now she is attended by Dr Condor, a family physician from Vienna. Lieutenant Hofmiller, a cavalry officer, feels sorry for Edith and falls into the habit of visiting her almost …

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