Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Levels of observation

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 23 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7475
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

All art, said Walter Pater, aspires to the condition of music. Whether this be so or not, the Swiss novelist and dramatist, Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990) certainly wrote the novel The Assignment: or, on the Observing of the Observer of the Observers after listening to a recording of Glenn Gould playing the first half of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. He decided then to write a novel in 24 sentences, either in imitation or in honour of Bach; not surprisingly the book is short, but the sentences are long.

It is a technical accomplishment to write a sentence several pages long that is both lucid and easy to …

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