On May 26, 1969, I, Becquer Benalcazar, a resident of Cali, Colombia, received the long-awaited but unwanted letter from the Secretary of the Ministry of Health in Bogota. A year’s practice as a country doctor is a demanding mandatory fulfilment in Colombia, after the state medical exam, to obtain a certificate of license. It is in a sense the price one must pay to hang the licensed physician plaque outside one’s residence in Cali, Medellin, or Bogota. Country doctor positions are filled on an annual rotation and only rarely do young doctors stay beyond the mandatory period. I had ended up in Esperanza, a small town of 800 souls, somewhere between Pasto and Popayan. I had not chosen Esperanza. Once again, I had been busy with other matters and had missed the beginning of the country doctor selection process. The country doctor lottery had been established for those doctors without recommendations. After colleagues with the so-called “vitamin R” had grabbed positions as tutorial assistants at the University of Bogotá, at the Santa Marta spa hotel or as interns at the quarantine department in Cartagena, our turn came, of those without recommendations. I did not know Esperanza and had never been there, since it is not on the main road between Popayan and Pasto. But the name Esperanza, Hope, had intrigued me. I had been in contact with my predecessor Esteban Pena, a colleague at the University of Valle Del Cauca. Pena had not expressed great enthusiasm for the opportunities offered by this practice. A meeting room, a small operating room, and a trauma room. Patients with the 18 usual seasonal infections, home and work accidents, allergies, and depression. An elderly housekeeper named Dona Blanca was on staff and an excellent cook. Morena, a younger nurse, assisted in the outpatient clinic. Esperanza seemed to me the junction to eventually reach the Mecca of psychiatry and analysis, Topeka, Kansas, via an internship near Chicago.
Today we talk about Bestsuburban, a book by Axel Zander published with our publishing house Europe Books.
Europe Books had the pleasure of interviewing the author Axel Zander to get to know him better, what was the moment that led him to the writing of his book Bestsuburban, as well as how he chose the title of his book.
Below you can find our interview. Take a seat and enjoy your reading!!!
- What was the moment that prompted you to the writing of your book?
I had the idea to write this book for years. The internships in the old Country and the USA were deeply ingrained in my memory. But what to write and how? There several interesting books describing the arduous way of a young doctor from Medical School into the first year of medical practice. There is Michail Bulgakow writing about his first year of practice in a rural Area of Russia. There is Samuel Shem with the House of God showing a satirical view of an internship in the Boston Hospital. And there is David Ansell with his „County: Life, Death and Politics in Chicago’s s Public Hospital, a book that helped me to retrieve the first chaotic days in Chicago. There were many ideas: I write about the FMGs, the foreign medical graduates: This allows a new perspective. These young doctors come from everyplace in the world, grabbed by the strong arms of an octopus to be devoured by the American system, As Nurse Morena in Esperanza, an imagined little town in Colombia laments. Ideas many yes, but no time to sit down and concentrate on an empty piece of paper. But then came the Corona time: nothing to do, nowhere to go. I studied writing and started to think about the old internship story. There were a few facts and plenty of fiction. Suddenly the story run by itself.
- What characteristics your audience should have to appreciate your book?
The audience, I have written it for, is represented primarily by my colleagues from 1970, and physicians,who might sympathize or identify with being a beginner in Medicine. The book Bestsuburban takes the viewpoint of FMGs, foreign medical graduates. Like the House Of God sees the same time through the eyes of Harvard medical graduates. A look-alike of the author of the House of God plays a part as a love lost medical student in Bestsuburban one year before his internship in House Of God. He is forced by one of the FMGs to spill the beans on the amazing track record of the Harvard students in guessing the correct diagnosis in the clinical case presentation published every week in the New England Journal Of Medicine.
- How did you choose the title of your book?
The title: Bestsuburban is the tender ironical version of the Westsuburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois. White, wealthy, clean, suburban. The title was there before I started writing.
- How would you describe your writing style?
My writing style is laconic. Some words said, some left out.
- Are you working on a new writing project you can tell us about?
I am working on short stories: Medicine and memories of childhood after the war and in the fifties. To write another novel, I might need another personal lockdown.
Europe Books thanks the author Axel Zander once again for taking the time and answering our questions. We are really pleased to have walked alongside him on the editorial path that led to the publication of his book Bestsuburban. We wish him the best of luck for his book and for his future works.
To you, my dear reader, I wish this book captures and intrigues you. I wish it will also allow you to have new insights and food for thoughts that you could reflect upon.
So, my dear reader, all I have to say is to enjoy your reading!