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A deadly role reversal

When Breath Becomes Air is the neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi’s powerful — and posthumous — account of finding himself on the wrong end of the scalpel

6 February 2016

9:00 AM

6 February 2016

9:00 AM

When Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi

Bodley Head, pp.232, £12.99, ISBN: 9781847923677

Who would you trust to take a blade to your brain? Medical schools and hospitals, arbiters of this outrageous intimacy, select the steadiest hands and the steadiest temperaments. Neurosurgery has an almost religious aura, an intellectual status approaching quantum physics and a work ethic of unforgiving precision. Most elusive of all, this elite should be able to express the pleasures and pains of being human.

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