In the BMJ Dalrymple profiles a French doctor with a varied career similar to his own:
The Prix Goncourt, whose British equivalent is the Booker prize, was won in 2001 by a doctor, Jean-Christophe Rufin, for his historical novel Rouge Brésil. The author has had a remarkable career; he is what the French call a surdoué—a prodigy.An early member of Médecins Sans Frontières, Rufin has worked in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. A consultant in neurology in Paris, he has also been French cultural attaché in Brazil and French ambassador to Senegal. He has fulfilled many administrative and academic duties, learnt several languages, and written 15 books, translated into many tongues, that have sold millions of copies worldwide. He became an immortel, one of the 40 members of the Académie Française, in 2008.This year he published a book of short stories: Sept Histoires Qui Reviennent de Loin (Seven Stories from Afar). One of them is called “Night on Duty,” which I suspect is autobiographical, although Rufin in an interview once put the role of memory in the work of imaginative writing rather beautifully: it is not the writing of memories, but of echoes of memories.