05 August, 2008

Interesting Fact Number One

Guess what? I learned something today. Kafka was German.

This stunning revelation came about when I was having a very pleasant conversation with one of my patients. I noticed he had Dr as his title and asked if he was a GP. Well, he looked like one. No, he replied, he had a PhD. " Ah, a real doctor" I said and we both had a good laugh. Few things needle a medical doctor more than pointing out that they aren't real doctors. It turned out that he was a doctor of German Literature. Well, as you know, I do like a good read and I pressed him for more information. We had a chat about why German literature has such a low profile as opposed to English or Russian. He felt that a lot of it was due to the whole guilt/World War 2/mass horror/warmongering image that Germany had. I told him that I didn't know any German authors. "Have you heard of Kafka?" he asked. Well yes, but I thought he was Russian. He told me that Kafka was a German Jew who lived in Prague but wrote all of his books in German. We went on to have a nice conversation about Metamorphosis and I asked if he could recommend a good German novel. Without hesitation he told me to look for Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. I popped into a bookshop on the way home. "Ah, Gunter Grass." confirmed the man in the bookshop. "Possibly my favourite book ever. The film is really good but it's not a patch on the book. No. Out of stock. Has been for ages." Super. He's ordering a copy for me and it should arrive from the US in 3 weeks.

Strangely enough, I was having another pleasant conversation with another patient later in the day. She was a German teacher and told me that Kafka was Czech but did indeed write all of his books in German. I came home and checked my own battered copy of Metamorphosis and Other Stories. Turns out he was Czech after all.

So, the Germans have claimed Kafka, son of a Czech Jew as their own. That's just the sort of thing that Australia does all the time. Aussie Joe Bugner, anyone? And Britain has done it too. Zola Budd, the barefoot South African runner whose great granny spent a weekend in Worthing during the summer of 1862. Okay, it wasn't that but it was some sort of tenuous link. She got a British passport in record time to enable her to run for Great Britain in the Olympics and what did she do? Tripped over a Yank, jogged in last to the boos of the crowd, got disqualified and never ran again. Actually, did you know that she didn't trip Mary Decker? The footage proved it and she was reinstated but the legend stands.

Where was I? I really do have the attention span of a three year old at times. Oh yes, Kafka. Read Metamorphosis. It's really quite good.

**UPDATED**
I did a bit of Googling and it turns out that Prague belonged to Austria when Kafka was born. You just have to love those mobile European borders.

11 comments:

NiC said...

I must admit I'd always assumed Kafka was a Czech but now I suppose it turns out I was wrong! Live and learn eh?

The Tin Drum is one of my all time favourites...definitely worth searching for.

And mention of Zola Budd always reminds me (as he intended) of Steve Bell's South African penguin character "Notta Bleck" who gained British citizen-ship from being a world speed record Daily Mail editorial writer....

SSS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SSS said...

I deleted my own comment, it was reasonably inarticulate. Mind you, based on that criteria I should delete the whole blog.

Jacki said...

Pointing out to medical doctors that they have a courtesy title of Dr is one of my favourite smart-arse things to do!

Foodycat said...

One of the doctors (a pathologist) on our board of trustees has a long running battle with one of the others (a gynaecologist) on the fact that the gyno uses the title Mr. The things they do get wound up about!

SSS said...

Well, if the gynaecologist has sat a certain exam he is indeed a Mr. My dentist in the UK was a Mr but dentists here call themselves Dr. One of the anaesthetists at work was complaining about dentists doing that until someone piped up and told him that he didn't have a doctorate either.

At my training hospital the director of nursing had completed a doctorate and used Dr in her title. I didn't think she should have done that as to me it seemed to send mixed messages with the head of nursing being called Dr. On the other hand she worked hard for her PhD.

What's in a name anyway?

*not that I don't think that medical doctors should be called Dr, obviously, but as Jacki has pointed out, it's fun to needle!

Jacki said...

SSS what are the titles used in nursing these days? Do 'matron' and 'sister' and DON ever get trotted out? (I worked with very cheeky nurses in psych who used to call all the male nurses sister)

Regarding the doctor title thing- I vaguely remember from high school german that a medical doctor is called Herr of Frau Doktor then the surname, and if they had a doctorate as well then they got Doktor Doktor surname??

We don't seem to go for the Mr title here as much for specialists/consultants as in the UK.

Jacki said...

That should be "Herr OR Frau Doktor"

Foodycat said...

It also depends where he did the exam - apparently the English and Scottish conventions are different.

In the UK I think they are re-introducing matron as a title as a substitute for doing anything concrete to improve the NHS.

NiC said...

A friend of mine with a PhD (philosophy) always suggested Quack as a title for medical "doctors".....it did seem to wind them up, yes.

SSS said...

Nursing titles are different in the UK and Oz.

In Oz every registered nurse is called Sister. An enrolled nurse (they do one year here) is called Nurse. What do we call the boys? Well, they just get nurse, or if it's me they get 'oi you'. No. Not really.

In the UK all nurses are referred to as Nurse, unless you're in charge of the ward and then you're called Sister. My brother used to find it hilarious to call me at work and call me Sister Sister.

Foodycat has a point with the Matron thing. I think it's an excellent idea in principle but my UK nursing friends tell me that the senior nurses they appointed to Matron positions all had management posts before and were mightily pissed off to be clinical again. Consequently most of them are ineffectual and avoid the wards like the plague. So, full marks for wasting high salaries on people who aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing.

Clearly that's a massive generalisation but if anyone wants to dispute that feel free to post.