Postponing grief

In the August 17th British Medical Journal (subscription required), Dalrymple profiles American author Peter De Vries:
It often seemed to me during my clinical career that some people were called upon (by what, or by whom?) to bear more suffering and loss than was their fair share, or more than could be explained by anything that they, or indeed anyone else, had done. Tragedy followed them around like an obedient dog; mostly they bore it unprotestingly. They made me feel guilty because I was in the habit of complaining so vociferously about the minor inconveniences of life.
The American writer Peter De Vries (1910–1993) was in general known for his comic novels and for his wit—he once said that he enjoyed being a writer, except for the paperwork. But one of his novels, The Blood of the Lamb, published in 1961, was bleak and tragic—and autobiographical.
De Vries was born of Dutch Calvinist stock to whom (as he later put it) everything was forbidden except heaven. In the novel, his narrator-protagonist’s older brother, a medical student, dies of pneumonia; a girlfriend dies of tuberculosis; his father goes mad and dies in an asylum; his wife commits suicide; and his daughter dies aged 12 of acute leukaemia. Quite a lot of this happened, more or less; and though De Vries was famously antireligious, it is clear that he was still wrestling with his own religious upbringing 50 years after his birth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.