A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor

ISBN: 067973726X
ISBN 13: 9780679737261
By: John Berger Jean Mohr

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About this book

In this quietly revolutionary work of social observation and medical philosophy, Booker Prize-winning writer John Berger and the photographer Jean Mohr train their gaze on an English country doctor and find a universal man--one who has taken it upon himself to recognize his patient's humanity when illness and the fear of death have made them unrecognizable to themselves. In the impoverished rural community in which he works, John Sassall tend the maimed, the dying, and the lonely. He is not only the dispenser of cures but the repository of memories. And as Berger and Mohr follow Sassall about his rounds, they produce a book whose careful detail broadens into a meditation on the value we assign a human life. First published thirty years ago, A Fortunate Man remains moving and deeply relevant--no other book has offered such a close and passionate investigation of the roles doctors play in their society."In contemporary letters John Berger seems to me peerless; not since Lawrence has there been a writer who offers such attentiveness to the sensual world with responsiveness to the imperatives of conscience."--Susan Sontag

Reader's Thoughts


I thought there would be more medical stuff in it, but it was still a good read. More sociological than medical.


Recommended reading for all GPs and GP trainers and trainees. Not only a n honest insight into being a GP, John Berger's speculation about the philosophy of care and underlying motivations about work ethic deserve discussion. Is Dr Sewell as a solo GP with a high degree of procedural as well as psychological medicine living and working in his practice community an anachronism or the doctor of the future he asks and prophetically speculates from 1967 that computers will one day make better diagnoses than doctors, but sees that even in that future age nothing will substitute another person, a GP, being with people helping them to bear, understand, or simply experience their suffering.

Kelli Holgate

I found the book interesting and it made me think of the purpose of my work as a medical social worker. When country doctors were the norm, they filled the role, but as times have progressed we as a society have moved away from relying on our MD for anything more than medical care. Wouldn't it be nice to have a MD that understood every part of your life and met our needs, medical or otherwise?

Chanel Earl

This little piece of non-fiction is stunning. It describes the life of a doctor in rural England and his interaction with his patients. It isn't very traditional. There are several short stories, or even flash-length pieces in there, and the whole book is illustrated with actual photos. Philosophically, it discusses what it means to be a doctor and to share such intimate secrets with your patients, what it means to heal and what it means to belong to a community.I think I want to reread this book.


Anyone with an interest in medicine would benefit from the this book. It is a powerful discussion of the doctor's role in his or her community. John Berger is a writer particularly adept at both telling one man's story and teasing out some of its larger implications. The book is perhaps more relevant now then it was in the 60's when it was written. Medicine has taken an unfortunate turn away from doctors tending to their community in the intimate way detailed here.


An intriguing, candid, though metaphysical and philosophical at times, and honest look at a family medicine doctor set in rural England circa 1960's. Very much similar to a James Harriet book, though a biography instead. It is not an easy read in that there is much to digest mentally, it is more the attributes and demons that this doctor has or has to deal with that is discussed rather than day in and day out stories, though there are some of those. It is a a very honest book and as far as I can tell, accurate and has direct application to nearly all areas of medicine in any part of the world because, after all, humans are humans no matter where they be humans at.


An amazing book, a must read for all medical students and doctors


More of a historical short story about a country doctor in England in the late 1950´s, it stands more as a sociological work than that of an exploration of what it means to be a rural physician. Probably would interest those with a sociology or anthropological background more than a medical one.

Scott Hopkins

Short book. So boring I couldn't finish it.


This is a fascinating if prescientific reflection on medical practice. Berger was an art critic, writer, and poet whose work included sociological pieces. This particular work is among them. It begins with a few portraits of interactions between the country doctor and his patients. Then it reflects on the man. It analyzes how he began his career with frank impatience for anything that wasn't an emergency. This impatience was gratified by his early military career and -when he took over a country practice after the war- certain aspects of his surgical practice. However, he appears to have had a natural sensitivity that recognized and became interested in the changing personal characteristics of his patients. His isolation from other practicing physicians enhanced his attention to people and probably his empathy for them. Berger raises interesting questions about the nature and scope of practice, how physicians should recognize the patient is person, and why they so often fail to do so. He also reflects on how alienating illness is in a way that echoes Heidegger (un-home-like being-in-the-world) and Camus (the metaphysics of absurdity). Overall, I should spend a little more time reflecting on some of the points made.


In order to save money, I have begun reading all my husband's books. I started this last month, but I don't have my list handy, so this is the first one that I can think of right now from his book shelf. This is a deep book. Philosophical and psychological. And short. With photographs.


even if the main stream of the book seems the life of a doctor in a rural area, his relationship with his patients and his role in that community, after reading the book the readers actually feel the sorrow of a man who tries to understand humans(as the given quote of Goethe) and suffers when he can not help them in some cases. beyond this, Berger asks some questions which are hard to answer(actually paradox) such as the worth of human life or the worth of the moment(by the side of children and adults) supported with the quotes of Sartre. i really enjoyed while i'm reading.

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