Well, good luck

In Artists, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on May 2, 2015 at 7:37 am

In the expectation that his French skills will meet with approval on Tuesday, the Romanian doctor and I reviewed his reading yesterday and corrected pronunciation on key elements of the Hippocratic Oath.

Considering the furore in literary circles over the PEN’s decision to honor Charlie Hebdo, I just took a peek at the modern English version of said oath in comparison to its French counterpart. Beyond the broadest of principles, medical doctors in French-speaking and English-speaking countries do not swear to the same things. For instance, the French version of the oath states the following in two consecutive sentences:  “Je ne prolongerai pas abusivement les agonies. Je ne provoquerai jamais la mort délibérément.” (I shall never abusively prolong agonies. I shall never deliberately bring about death.) Good luck to the medical doctor who must deal with the chasm between the full stop at the end of the first sentence and the full stop at the end of the second. No such words appear in the English version. In some countries, medically-assisted suicide is an accepted practice. In others (France among them), it leads to criminal charges against the doctor.

Also of interest: the final paragraph of the oath. In French:  “Que les hommes et mes confrères m’accordent leur estime si je suis fidèle à mes promesses ; que je sois déshonoré et méprisé si j’y manque. » (May men and my colleagues bestow their esteem on me if I am faithful to my promises; may I be dishonored and despised if I fail them.)

There is no direct mention of dishonor or scorn in the English version. except for a kind of sword of Damocles in the first seven words, regarding the unmentionable: “If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”

A few years ago, I recall being offended by a cover of The New Yorker depicting Michelle and Barak Obama as jihadists. Of course, savvy readers of The New Yorker got the joke while many an un-savvy passerby at a newsstand saw his or her worst anxieties confirmed.

Irony. Satire. Your truth. Her truth. His truth. Mine. Merrily we roll along, roll along, roll along buffeted by literal mindedness. Attempting all along to practice the fine art of dancing between raindrops, inanities, irreconcilable differences, and bullets.



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