Joanna Kavenna at Literary Review:
What is health anyway, when everyone dies in the end? The World Health Organization defines it as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. This is a long way from the attitude of the ‘last of the great Bakhtishu family of physicians, around the year 1000 in Baghdad’, writes Bamforth: they found that the perfect state of health ‘does not exist’. What about Schopenhauer and his definition of humanity as a synthesis of the infinite and the finite?
Acutely aware of the overarching weirdness of all of the above, Bamforth has created a fascinating ‘medical dreambook’, full of night terrors and waking visions. He dreams of ‘rales’ and ‘crépitations’, crackles in the lungs heard via stethoscope. He dreams of Thomas Mann and his magic mountain, where Hans Castorp meets Dr Hofrat Behrens, aka Rhadamanthus, judge of the dead.