Thursday, May 20, 2004



Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, tr. D. Magarshack, Book 11, chapter 9:
I tell you the old-fashioned doctor who used to cure you of all illnesses has quite disappeared. Now there are only specialists and they all advertise in the papers. If there's something wrong with your nose, they will send you to Paris: there's a European specialist there who cures noses. You go to Paris, he examines your nose. "I'm sorry," he tells you, "I can only cure your right nostril, for I don't cure left nostrils, it's not my specialty. You'd better go to Vienna. There's you'll find a special specialist who will cure your left nostril."
It just so happens that there was a famous nose specialist in Vienna a few years after Dostoyevsky wrote his novel -- Sigmund Freud's friend Wilhelm Fliess, author of Die Beziehungen zwischen Nase und weibliche Geschlechtsorgnanen in ihrer biologischen Bedeutungen dargestellt (The Relations between the Nose and the Female Sexual Organs, presented in their Biological Aspects). Needless to say, Fliess was an utter quack. See Martin Gardner, Science: Good, Bad and Bogus (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1981), pp. 131-139, for the story of the folie à deux which existed between Fliess and Freud.

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