front cover of Catharsis
On the Art of Medicine
Andrzej Szczeklik
University of Chicago Press, 2005
The ancient Greeks used the term catharsis for the cleansing of both the body by medicine and the soul by art. In this inspiring book, internationally renowned cardiologist Andrzej Szczeklik draws deeply on our humanistic heritage to describe the artistry and the mystery of being a doctor. Moving between examples ancient and contemporary, mythological and scientific, Catharsis explores how medicine and art share common roots and pose common challenges.

The process of diagnosis, for instance, belongs to a world of magic and metaphor; the physician must embrace it like a poem or painting, with particular alertness and keen receptivity. Speculation on ways to slow aging through genetics, meanwhile, draws directly on the dream of immortality that artists and poets have nourished through the ages. And the concept of catharsis itself has made its way from the writings of Aristotle to today's growing interest in the benefits of music to health, especially in newborns. As Szczeklik explores such subjects as the mysteries of the heart rhythm, the secret history of pain relief, the enigmatic logic of epidemics, near-death or out-of-body experiences, and many more, he skillfully weaves together classical literature, the history of medicine, and moving anecdotes from his own clinical experiences. The result is a life-affirming book that will enrich the healing work of patients and doctors alike and make an invaluable contribution to our still-expanding vision of the art of medicine.

front cover of The Jews in Polish Culture
The Jews in Polish Culture
Aleksander Hertz
Northwestern University Press, 1988
Jews in Polish Culture was and in large measure remains an essentially pioneering work. Despite the passage of many years, the book's thrust has retained its initial, original freshness. 

front cover of Lucifer Unemployed
Lucifer Unemployed
Aleksander Wat
Northwestern University Press, 1990
In these nine stories the Polish writer Aleksander Wat consistently turns history on its ear in comic reversals reverberating with futurist rhythms and the gently mocking humor of despair. Wat inverts the conventions of religion, politics, and culture to fantastic effect, illuminating the anarchic conditions of existence in interwar Europe.

The title story finds a superbly ironic Lucifer wandering the Europe of the late 1920s in search of a mission: what impact can a devil have in a godless time? What is his sorcery in a society far more diablical than the devil himself? Too idealistic for a world full of modern cruelties, the unemployable Lucifer finally finds the only means of guaranteed immortality. In "The Eternally Wandering Jew," steady Jewish conversion to Christianity results in Nathan the Talmudist reigning as Pope Urban IX. The hilarious satire on power, "Kings in Exile," unfolds with the dethroned monarchs of Europe meeting to found their own republic in an uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean.

front cover of Winter Dialogue
Winter Dialogue
Tomas Venclova
Northwestern University Press, 1999
Best known in the U.S. as a scholar and critic, Tomas Venclova is a gifted poet whose work has remained largely unknown to an English-speaking audience. This collection of fifty-one poems is as distinctive as it is finely crafted. Also included is a foreword by Joseph Brodsky and an exchange between Venclova and Czeslaw Milosz.

front cover of The Witness of Poetry
The Witness of Poetry
Czeslaw Milosz
Harvard University Press, 1983

Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature, reflects upon poetry’s testimony to the events of our tumultuous time. From the special perspectives of “my corner of Europe,” a classical and Catholic education, a serious encounter with Marxism, and a life marked by journeys and exiles, Milosz has developed a sensibility at once warm and detached, flooded with specific memory yet never hermetic or provincial.

Milosz addresses many of the major problems of contemporary poetry, beginning with the pessimism and negativism prompted by reductionist interpretations of man’s animal origins. He examines the tendency of poets since Mallarmé to isolate themselves from society, and stresses the need for the poet to make himself part of the great human family. One chapter is devoted to the tension between classicism and realism; Milosz believes poetry should be “a passionate pursuit of the real.” In “Ruins and Poetry” he looks at poems constructed from the wreckage of a civilization, specifically that of Poland after the horrors of World War II. Finally, he expresses optimism for the world, based on a hoped-for better understanding of the lessons of modern science, on the emerging recognition of humanity’s oneness, and on mankind’s growing awareness of its own history.


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