Abner's Reviews > The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
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's review
Jun 04, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction

I had read this book some time ago and thought it was just excellent - a very thoughtful and fast-moving combination of anecdotes from this author's work as an oncologist and his history of cancer, from its earliest appearances in written texts to the new gene-based, highly focused therapies that are being developed and used with some success. Here's the last paragraph from the NY Times review: "As a clinician, Mukherjee is only guardedly optimistic. One of the constants in oncology, as he says, is 'the queasy pivoting between defeatism and hope.' Cancer is and may always be part of the burden we carry with us — the Greek word onkos means 'mass' or 'burden.' As Mukherjee writes, 'Cancer is indeed the load built into our genome, the leaden counterweight to our aspirations for immortality.' But onkos comes from the ancient Indo-European nek, meaning to carry the burden: the spirit 'so inextricably human, to outwit, to outlive and survive.' Mukherjee has now seen many patients voyage into the night. 'But surely,' he writes, 'it was the most sublime moment of my clinical life to have watched that voyage in reverse, to encounter men and women returning from that strange country — to see them so very close, ­clambering back.'"

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