Archive for September 4th, 2011

With Abraham Verghese

September 4, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (5)



at the Rio de Janeiro Book Festival




Some years ago, after reading the The Tennis Partner I wrote to Abraham Verghese to tell him how much I had appreciated the book. During our exchange of messages we talked of setting up a tennis match. Unfortunately this is never going to happen now – we have both had to cut back on tennis because of joint problems (a table tennis or badminton match however remains a real possibility).






We did an event together and Abraham had many interesting things to say about his twin careers as a doctor and writer. I had not known, for example, that it was Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage that had inspired him to study medicine.

The mention of Somerset Maugham took me by surprise: he is one of those writers who is rarely spoken of nowadays, even though he had a huge influence on readers of the generation to which Abraham and I belong, especially in Asia (I am still haunted by Maugham’s story Rain). Why do those academic critics who go on endlessly about postcolonialism, Conrad, Greene etc never utter the name ‘Maugham’? This is evidence…. of what? Better that it remain unsaid.

Abraham also said something interesting about the contrast between his medical education in India and the US. In India, he said, he had been taught to read the body as a text. In the US it was treated as something to be studied through (diagnostic) tests.

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