Skip to main content

Maria Reiner Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurdis Briggs: what your next-door neighbors probably think of you, if you're studying Medicine

I'M NOT YET done with Maria Reiner Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Briggs. The tone is depressing, for it was written when the author lived alone in Paris, plagued by poverty, left to fend for himself. I'm stationed at the Psychiatry out-patient clinics in the morning. I see many depressed people. Reading this novel helps me see the world from their perspective.

Interesting is the part where Malte, the character who does the novel's narration, describes the person living in the room beside his own—a medical student.

I wrote; I had my life, and the one next door was a completely different life, that I shared nothing with: the life of a medical student who was studying for his exam. I had nothing like that awaiting me; this was already an essential difference. And in other respects as well, our circumstances were as different as they possibly could be. All this seemed crystal clear. Until the moment when I knew it would come; then I forgot that we had nothing in common.

When Malte no longer hears him moving next door, he writes:

He has gone home, somewhere in the country. He needed to recuperate.

How true that is in med school! If only plane tickets were cheaper I'd be at home every week.

In another section Malte is describing the pressures upon this medical student, comparable in our case to a fresh graduate about to take the medical boards.

My fear may have arisen from the very facts I had learned about him; after I knew them, I was even more easily scared.

He had already had to let the exams go by a few times; his ambition had become sensitive, and probably his people at home were pressuring him every time they wrote. So what could he do except pull himself together for one final attempt? But a few months before the decisive date, this weakness had appeared; this small, impossible fatigue, which seemed so ridiculous, as when a venetian blind refuses to stay up. I'm sure that for weeks he felt he should be strong enough to master it. Otherwise I would never have hit upon the idea of offering him my will. Because one day I realized that he had come to the end of his.

The author alludes to the possibility that this medical student may have killed himself—WHICH YOU SHOULDN'T EVEN BE THINKING ABOUT!

I warned you the book is depressing, didn't I?


Popular posts from this blog

Tarps and COVID-19

Saw this in my feed. So Pinoy in many respects:  the graduation photo the tarp with three fonts: Monotype Corsiva ("Congratulations"), Arial (the girl's name), and the serif below the papaya tree the use of the middle name the color scheme (pink in white) the iconic Philippine countryside It's the first time I'm hearing about Zarraga, some 16 km north of Iloilo City. Seems like a charming place to visit. Also COVID-free. 

Week 9, 2012: Aboard the MV Logos Hope

I met old friends from college last Saturday. We had breakfast at an old restaurant along Ongpin Street called Saludo's. Some of us went to Logos Hope, a ship with lots of books inside it—some 5000 titles, we were told. The sun was hot, in a cancerous, melanoma-inducing kind of way. Summer is just right around the corner. Took us a while to get inside the ship. I thought this view of Manila's skyline from one of the windows was amazing. We saw what we came for: books. They were sold in "units" that had a corresponding peso conversion. The books sold cheaply, so I got David Copperfield by Charles Dickens for 150 units (Php 150). I plan to read at least one Dickens novel this year, 2012 being his 200th birthday. (I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read a single novel of his, ever). I saw Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, classics, modern fiction, modern Christian literature, biographies, medical and nursing textbooks, and children's books. Visit