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The Story of San Michele

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  2,990 ratings  ·  227 reviews
The Story of San Michele (a villa built on the ruins of a Roman Emperor's villa in Capri) is a series of overlapping vignettes, roughly but not entirely in chronological order. It contains reminiscences of many periods of the author's life. He associated with a number of celebrities of his times, including Jean-Martin Charcot, Louis Pasteur, Henry James, and Guy de Maupass ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 8th 2004 by John Murray Publishers Ltd (first published 1929)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Boken om San Michele = The Story of San Michele, Axel Munthe

The Story of San Michele is a book of memoirs by Swedish physician Axel Munthe first published in 1929. The Story of San Michele has 32 chapters. It is a series of overlapping vignettes, roughly but not entirely in chronological order. It contains reminiscences of many periods of his life. He associated with a number of celebrities of his times, including Jean-Martin Charcot, Louis Pasteur, Henry James, and Guy de Maupassant, all of who

I had read firstly about The Story of San Michele in some other novel and the image that emerged from it and formed in my mind then was so enticing that I knew I had to get this book. Well, better said than done as it turned out. None of my friends had heard about it or had a copy, I couldn’t find it in the library, it was constatly borrowed or maybe lost. Anyway some time passed and I was a student in Cracow and lived with some other students in rented apartament. We had four rooms there, five
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the autobiography of a gung ho doctor and adventurer, carrying a bag full of rich stories – some of them funny, others magical, others tragic . He has a deep well of love and compassion for both human beings and animals, in all our states of being. From the hypochondria of some of his wealthy patients to the desperate plights of some of his poorer ones – Axel Munthe connects passionately with the humanity in all of us. At the start of his career he was the youngest person ever to have gr ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The author was Swedish, born in 1857 and studied medicine in Paris at an early age. I do not know how he looked like, he has no photo in this autobiographical book, but he did mention here a few times that he has blue eyes. He was probably good-looking because the rich and the royalties during his time, most of them women, flocked to him for their real and imagined illnesses.

The blurb says that he was Tsar Nicholas's first choice as doctor for his ailing, only son (Rasputin only came to the pict
Bruce Beckham
Nov 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
By chance and in complete ignorance I was lucky enough this summer to be taken to the precipitous Italian island of Capri, and upwards to the Villa San Michele. I learned of its architect and builder, the renowned Swedish physician and author, Axel Munthe (1857-1949).

The property itself is most notable for its construction on the site of the villa of the Emperor Tiberius; for the ancient unearthed relics thus incorporated into its fabric; and for its literally breathtaking views over the bay of
Jul 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A stunningly individual book - a glimpse into another time, through fascinating eyes. In some ways, it feels very ahead-of-its-time, the playfulness of the narrator/author presaging postmodern concerns.

The flaw is that Munthe - while capable of some truly beautiful sentences - is not a novelist, nor even a prose writer, and is not writing in his first (nor, if I recall correctly, even second or third) language. As a result, from top to bottom this feels like the work of an amateur, lacking sophi
Apr 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this great book about 30 or so years ago. Now that I have visited Axel Munthe's extraordinary Tiberian Villa in Capri I wanted to read it again.

It was worth a second reading. He has such a great way with story telling. The only disappointing element was the end chapter "In the old tower" where he rambles about death way too long.

He built his villa by hand. No architect, no permits, no coastal commission, no unions, & no inspectors. Ahh... those were the days!

Best quote:
"The house was smal
Kristīne Līcis
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I first read this book in my early teens, and can safely say that this is a book that raised me and that has had most profound influence on me. This is the book that showed me the beauty of curiosity about science and of interest in history, art and philosophy. This is the book that taught me about empathy, about charity without being condescending. This is the book that made me realise that I too am directly benefiting from the medical discoveries of late 19th century and early 20th century (th ...more
Alfred Haplo
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Longer review later (** updated) but for now, some brief thoughts... San Michele is a memoir but an unconventional one at that. The narrator, Axel Munthe, a Swedish physician, had written the book in his early 70's in an anecdotal, rambling format which lends to its quirky charm, but also its disorganization. His writing is as coherent as an informal conversation, where the vignettes are the stars of the memoir, so many facts and typical references like dates are absent.

Where it gets incredulou
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Fact or fantasy? The Story of San Michele is something of both. It is also an instantly engaging, involving masterpiece of mid 20th century fiction. Although many of its scenarios and concerns are to do with a century earlier, it has the ability to evoke images of filmic, almost widescreen, power and scope.

We move from mid 19th century Italian fishermen, in their Phrygian caps, hauling in their nets, to Paris at the time of the Les Fleurs du Mal. Then there's the awesome evocation of Naples at
Corina Sima
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Simply loved this book. It's touching, above all. And inspiring - it makes you appreciate the small joys in life, enjoy nature's beauty and cherish all that's good in the human spirit. It's honest, though not in the traditional sense - the facts narrated are part biography and part fiction, but the book has this overall feeling like it's telling the true story of a soul. It's also beautiful - though it often speaks of sad circumstances, it also contains many passages that made me smile and feel ...more
Dec 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
A travel classic, this extraordinary, partly fictionalised autobiography includes and is partly defined by significant elaborations and omissions (for example wholly neglecting to mention two wives).

Scenes include medical life among the Parisian poor, a Scandinavian idyll and an audacious if somewhat sentimental vision of God and Heaven to conclude.

Visiting Capri while reading this book was a magical experience.
Aurimas Novikovas
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had this book for ages. As far as I can remember myself. Never opened it. Once I had a dream, a dream in which I had opened the book and started reading it, so I woke up and it was too early to wake up, so I took the dusty book from the shelf and started reading. The end of romanticism. It's a good one, a really good one but it probably failed to stand against time. I regret not reading it before I had read all other classics, I'm sure my review would be different.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most beautiful books I've ever read, this was my fourth reading.

Search for "villa San Michele" to see its wonderful views.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought this was going to be a dreamy novel about Capri but it turned out to be more of a medical memoir. Rabies in Paris, cholera in Naples, malaria in Rome (and 'neurotic' women everywhere), I thought this was a really interesting account of life + disease in late 1800s / early 1900s Western Europe.
Luís D'Abreu
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe the best book I read this year.
Aldo Marchioni
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Until 2 weeks ago I had no idea an Axel Munthe ever existed. Then somebody gave me this book, and it was a revelation.
It has been written at the beginning of XX century, and deals about things happened at the end of the XIX, however it sounds so contemporary that I would define it out of time.
It deals about the falling in love of Axel Munthe for Capri, and Anacapri in particular, how he discovered some remaining of the famous Tiberius villa, and how he built (with his own hands, and the help of
This is the very favorite book of a dear family friend, which is how I found out about it. I found the narrative style a bit clunky, but overall enjoyed the book. I'm sure that I missed some significant bits, as the book is liberally sprinkled with phrases in French, Italian and Latin - none of which I know.

I especially enjoyed it from a "history of medicine" perspective. How frustrating to read about people dying from diphtheria, cholera epidemics & tertiary syphilis! It was interesting to look
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
This book was honestly quite confusing... It is autobiography of a person that definitely had an interesting and adventurous life, but it is really hard to follow.

His writing basically follows his thread of thoughts, switching places, languages, making assumptions about the context of the situations that leaves the reader basically lost. On top of that many times the stories are mixed with his thoughts about religion, his doubts about it and his interactions with the Death itself...

I must admit
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A collection of many anecdotes of the Swedish doctor working in Paris, Rome, on trips to Lapland (one of the best bits), and in his retreat in Capri (or rather Anacapri) shared with a naughty baboon among others. the medical sections and reflections on society were interesting, and there were many laugh out loud passages like his Hamlet. Mauspassent, Pasteur and other famous people turn up occasionally as well as goblins of course.
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been reading this book for a very long time.
It is a very interesting book filled with real life stories of a medical doctor. Some of those are hard to process, some are easy and funny.
All in all, I loved it. If you really like the medical stories coated with a bit of mystery this is the book for you :)
Sam Schulman
May 03, 2013 rated it liked it
One of the great medical books and one of the great books about Capri - much more readable and memorable than Norman Douglas' South Wind.
Unfortunately (someone told me), much of Munthe's account of his heroic career as a doctor is a tissue of lies.
May 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book describes a society doctor's life and his construction of a fantastic home on the Island of Capri. Although I found it pretentious and rambling, it was oddly compelling.
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
one of my true forever favourites
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
My father-in-law recommended this book after I'd visited Italy and taken a trip to Capri, and climbed the steps to Anacapri. The book was entertaining and well-written, but I was disappointed. I thought it would be more about the actual building of Munthe's house, San Michele, and his life in Anacapri. Instead, it was a memoir, mostly about the time he spent as a young and talented doctor in Paris and Rome. Many of the chapters are stand-alone "vignettes", in which Munthe writes about interestin ...more
Geoffrey Fox
Aug 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Gossipy memoirs of a multilingual Swedish physician and psychiatrist (1857-1949), his patients -- who included Swedish and other royalty, many rich "hysterical women" and great numbers of the poor -- and of his building of his estate San Michele atop and among ancient ruins (including a palace of Roman Emperor Tiberius) on the isle of Capri. He was a good story-teller, interested not in documenting his life but in illustrating his philosophical and psychological notions by anecdotes. You would n ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it
After seeing San Michelle in Capri, this seemed like a must-read book. It was unavailable at the library so I bought it. I was somewhat disappointed. It rambled, and worse of all, did not have much of the detail I was hoping for on building of the home, the gardens, etc... I also had heard at the villa that he was one of the foremost early environmentalist, so I was hoping to hear more than stories of his monkey. Pictures would have been great, especially since the villa, gardens and old world r ...more
Jun 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I came across this quote a few days ago, looked it up, and ended up reading the entire book.
" I could cure the Countess of her colitis in a day."
He looked at me stupefied.
" And why, in the name of All the Saints, don't you? You are incurring a tremendous responsibility."
" I am not afraid of responsibility, I would not be here if I were. Now let us speak openly. Yes, I could cure the Countess in a day, she no more has co
Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I dipped in and out of this for research for my own writing, so although I claim to have read it, I have not gone about it in the usual way. Nonetheless I loved all the weird little anecdotes, particularly - and surprisingly as I am pretty squeamish - the medical ones. I mostly read in full the references to the Villa San Michele, of which there aren't actually that many!
I can imagine Munthe's style of writing would cause a serious headache to publishers/editors galore in this day and age, howev
Noor Anand
Jun 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Bought in the Villa San Michele Museum in Anacapri while vacationing there this summer, this autobiographical piece by Dr. Axel Munthe was a lovely reminder to me, of the stunning natural beauty of this Italian island.
Dr. Munthe, a Swedish doctor who practiced in various parts of Europe in the early 20th century provides a colourful and engaging account of his first hand experiences with diseases, natural calamities and disasters. He is very candid in his feelings about his patients and his una
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Physician, psychiatrist, and writer. He was educated at the University of Uppsala and at Monpellier in Paris where he received his M.D. He studied the work of the French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot and used hypnosis in his own work with the physical and psychological symptoms of his patients. He later became physician to the Swedish Royal family.

He became known as "the modern St. Francis of A

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