Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

A medical icon

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 06 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d3984
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Several doctors have been diplomats but few have been both diplomats and Orthodox monks. This was the trajectory of the Russian Konstantin Leontiev (1831-91); he was also a novelist, dramatist, literary critic, belletrist, philosopher, and theologian. He knew both Turgenev and Tolstoy and wrote critically of the latter.

He was a somewhat reluctant medical student. He described his anatomical studies at Moscow University with clear distaste: “The sprawling bodies on the slabs of strangled old men, drunkards frozen stiff in the streets, murdered wantons, whose corpses the students tore to pieces, laughing and blaspheming in all sorts of ways.”

He regarded his fellow students as a bad …

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