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The Story of San Michele
The Story of San Michele is the famous memoir by Swedish physician Axel Munthe (1857-1949). Written in English, it has been a best-seller in numerous languages. The author associated with a number of celebrities of his times, all of whom figure in the book. He also knew the very poorest, including immigrants and plague victims. He was an unabashed animal lover, and animals figure prominently, especially his alcoholic pet baboon, Billy. Several discussions with animals and various supernatural beings take place, and the final chapter actually happens after Munthe has died and includes his discussions with Saint Peter at the gates of Heaven. Munthe doesn't seem to take himself particularly seriously, but some of the things he discusses are very serious, such as his descriptions of rabies research, including euthanasia of human patients, and a suicide attempt by a man convinced he had been exposed to the disease. Worldwide, the book has been immensely successful.

One of the most fascinating of books, wise in its appraisal of men, overflowing with humour and edged with irony, sharper than a surgeon's knife. There are chapters which are veritable de Maupassant plots in their concise and dramatic realism. (New York Herald Tribune)

Told with a power and an honesty which makes this a very remarkable document. (TLS)

The Story of San Michele has style, wit, humour, great knowledge of the world, mixed with that strange simplicity of mind that is often the attribute of genius. (Observer)

Romantic, realistic, pitiful and enchanting, this is the record of a citadel of the soul ... all fantasy does it seem? Impossible? Absurd? But San Michele stands there on the hill for witness. A miracle? Well, every work of art is a miracle, and every beautiful thing the shrine of a realized dream. (Daily Telegraph)

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