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The Scalpel, the Sword: The Story of Dr. Norman Bethune [Unbound]

Ted Allan , Sydney Gordon
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Unbound, Sept. 23 1989 --  
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Book Description

Sept. 23 1989

Originally published in the early 1950s, The Scalpel, the Sword celebrates the turbulent career of Dr. Norman Bethune (1890-1939), a brilliant surgeon, campaigner against private medicine, communist, and graphic artist. Bethune belonged to that international contingent of individuals who recognized the threat of fascism in the world and went out courageously to try to defeat it.

Born in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Bethune introduced innovative techniques in treating battlefield injuries and pioneered the use of blood transfusions to save lives, which made him a legend first in Spain during the civil war and later in China when he served with the armies of Mao Zedong in their fight against the invading Japanese. He is today remembered amongst the pantheon of Chinese revolutionary heroes.

In Canada Bethune's strong left-wing views made him persona non grata, but this highly readable and engaging account has helped to sustain the memory of a great man.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Review

Originally published in the early 1950s, The Scalpel, the Sword celebrates the turbulent career of Dr. Norman Bethune (1890-1939), a brilliant surgeon, campaigner against private medicine, communist, and graphic artist. Bethune belonged to that international contingent of individuals who recognized the threat of fascism in the world and went out courageously to try to defeat it.

Born in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Bethune introduced innovative techniques in treating battlefield injuries and pioneered the use of blood transfusions to save lives, which made him a legend first in Spain during the civil war and later in China when he served with the armies of Mao Zedong in their fight against the invading Japanese. He is today remembered amongst the pantheon of Chinese revolutionary heroes.

In Canada Bethune's strong left-wing views made him persona non grata, but this highly readable and engaging account has helped to sustain the memory of a great man.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ted Allan (1916-1995) was a playwright, actor, screenwriter, novelist, and biographer. A dedicated Young Communist, Allan's works include This Time a Better Earth (1939) and Love Is a Long Shot (1984), which won the Stephen Leacock Award. The Scalpel, the Sword: The Story of Doctor Norman Bethune (1952) is his best-known work.

Sydney Gordon (1915-1984) was a childhood friend and collaborator of Ted Allan in Montreal.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of Curage March 4 2001
Format:Paperback
I remember this story from my mother reading it to me a s a child and again reading it as a highschool student. I gave me hope that one person can make a difference. That we can do things to help people not for fame and fortune but because people need our help and we have the expertise to help ease their pain and suffering.
Norman bethume was such a man and his story needs to be told again and again. I highly recommend it to anyone who values the efforts of individulas and the love of community.
Chester
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evrybody should read this book Oct. 8 2005
Format:Unbound
I am reading it right now, translated to Italian, and I am planning to buy an English version for my friends.
Norman Bethune about 70 years ago was already defending the socialization of medicine and in a public debate expressed that the concept "the right of the patients to choice the doctor they want" (sounds it familiar?) was an invention of some of his colleagues that wanted to profit with the needs of other human beings.
The book perhaps nowadays (it was written around 1952) may sound a bit biased in the praising of Mao Tse-Tung and the Chinese Communist Party (taking into consideration the history that followed) but nevertheless is an interesting document of the Spanish Civil War and also of the events that occurred in China and of the achievements of Dr. Bethune which, even today, is considered a hero in China.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Norm Bethune -- Genius combined with relentless effort. March 26 2005
By Eric Langager - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There are simple people and there are complicated people. Norm Bethune was definitely of the latter strain. Independent, erratic, gifted, persistent-ever searching for the next direction, or "mission."

His parents were great admirers of D.L. Moody. His father was a pastor at various small towns throughout Ontario, Canada, and his mother was a missionary. Bethune himself didn't seem to have the same interest as his parents in the things of God. But his mother's missionary fervor was obviously a very prominent influence in his life.

His genius as a surgeon first emerged when he contracted tuberculosis and decided that he must prepare to die. He encouraged his wife to divorce him, and he went to a sanitarium. But once he got there, he found the boredom of waiting to die was more tortuous than the illness itself, and he began to research the disease. His fortunes changed drastically when he happened upon a book describing a new procedure which involved removing part of the ribs to collapse an ailing lung. This procedure was new-only about a year old, but Bethune was interested. He was determined to be a beneficiary of this new innovation, and this determination eventually led to his recovery. It was 1927.

After his recovery, he became a thoracic surgeon. But he was frustrated by the numbers of indigent patients who did not get timely treatment because they were too poor. His preoccupation with, an concern for the "underdogs" of the world eventually led him to Spain, where he got involved in the Spanish civil war, working with the forces battling Franco. This experience had a profound effect on his thinking. He joined the Communist Party, and campaigned for support for the resistance forces.

But the heart of this book really begins when Dr. Bethune goes to China. His experiences as a battlefield surgeon make fascinating reading. He was hot-tempered and impatient, but his decision to use his genius as a surgeon to help the guerrilla fighters has given us a story well worth the reading. Edison said that "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Well, I don't know about the actual percentages, but it is clear that Bethune's life had a good dose of both. He was not only a physician, he was an inventor. He invented 12 different surgical instruments, and published 14 articles outlining his innovations in surgical technique. He was very creative, and a very, very hard worker. And he would not tolerate incompetence. He was vehement almost to the point of violence in his determination to give the best possible treatment to the wounded. The descriptions of battlefield surgery in this book are sometimes painful to read, but very, very compelling.

But I am not a medical person. My primary interest in this book stems from my interest in history. There are several ways that this book is helpful in that area. First of all, the story takes place during the Sino-Japanese war, a time in which Jiang jieshi got a lot of criticism from the Americans because of his refusal to fight the Japanese. Jiang jieshi always said, "The Japanese are a disease of the skin. The Communists are a disease of the heart." Although, he certainly did not want the Japanese to overrun China, he was very hesitant to expend men and resources against what he saw as a major enemy of the Communist armies, which he despised. He obviously felt that if he burned himself out fighting the Japanese, he would make it that much easier for the Communists to take over. That being the case, I have always wondered how much the Communists concentrated on fighting the Japanese themselves. This book answers that question. The wounds Bethune treated were inflicted by the Japanese. And the book gives weight to the idea that perhaps Jiang jie shi's approach backfired, because his refusal to fight the Japanese caused the Chinese people to lose respect for him.

Bethune died of septicemia in November of 1939. In her forward to the book, Soong Ching ling makes much of the charge that his death was due to the fact that the Guomindang refused to let the medicine through. I don't know about that. But it is terribly frustrating to read a story like this, because it is clear that a simple antibiotic could have saved him, as well as many other soldiers he would have been able to save if he had lived.

Finally, Bethune's life had a unique influence on history in a way that I am sure he never could have anticipated. During the days before the opening of China, which began with Nixon's visit in 1972, very few countries had any relationship at all with China. But Canada was a notable exception. Mao and others in China always viewed Canada in a positive light, and much of this was due to the overwhelming tendency to identify Canada with Dr. Norman Bethune, who is a national hero in China.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of Curage March 4 2001
By Chester Elton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I remember this story from my mother reading it to me a s a child and again reading it as a highschool student. I gave me hope that one person can make a difference. That we can do things to help people not for fame and fortune but because people need our help and we have the expertise to help ease their pain and suffering.
Norman bethume was such a man and his story needs to be told again and again. I highly recommend it to anyone who values the efforts of individulas and the love of community.
Chester
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Norman Bethune - A Life of Service, Compassion & Excitement Nov. 30 2001
By Ralph D. Siewers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a book that should be on the essential reading list for those planning a career in medicine (surgery). It is truly inspiring, and it provides an interesting history of the early years of thoracic surgery, transfusion medicine, and humanitarian committment. I recommend those who have the opportunity to visit the Bethune Peace Hospital in China, about a two hour drive from Beijing. The Bethune Museum there is wonderful.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to inspire Oct. 2 2005
By P. S. Ray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a great book, telling the story of a man who has inspired generations of doctors (and non-doctors) to try to cure more than just human disease. Norman Bethune, whose life this book describes, was a multifaceted man, for whom the adjective "great" would be quite appropriate. He was a surgeon, a health activist, a communist, a poet, a painter, a journalist and above all a great human being. This book describes his early life, his battle against tuberculosis,against fascism and all those who injure other human beings. Quoting his speeches,his newspaper articles and his journal extensively, the book informs and inspires and should be a must read for everyone who aspires to be a doctor or just loves humanity.
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy and interesting history June 2 2013
By Rev. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Bethume is a Canadian we don't appear to hear much about out side of the long march of China. However he did not participate in it, as the book points out. Worth readiong to find out the truth and his family background.
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