Saved by tuberculosis

Dalrymple’s latest BMJ column offers a look at author George Mackay Brown:
George Mackay Brown (1921–1996) was born in the Orkney Islands and, except for a few years of belated studies in Edinburgh, spent his whole life there. It is said that tuberculosis saved him for literature—Brown discovered he had the disease when he underwent medical examination to join the army during the second world war. Instead of serving, he spent six months in hospital, where he began to write. He was to spend another year in a sanatorium: such establishments existed as late as 1960.
If tuberculosis saved him for literature, medical progress saved him for life; but he was far from an unequivocal admirer of progress as a concept: “There is a new religion, Progress, in which we all devoutly believe, and it is concerned only with material things in the present and in a vague golden-handed future. It is a rootless, utilitarian faith, without beauty or mystery; a kind blind unquestioning belief that men and their material circumstances will go on improving until some kind of nirvana is reached and everyone will be rich, free, fulfilled, well-informed, masterful.”

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