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New Left Review I/13-14, January-April 1962

Peter Sedgwick

The Reader’s Digest

a short story by Peter Sedgwick

The nurses had not reported anything very distinctly unusual about the patient. (I myself, of course, saw him only for the first time in the operating theatre.) One or two of them, however, did notice one singular trait. Throughout the days that preceded my own contact with him, he was seen to ask with particular anxiety for newspapers and reviews of a more serious character than is ordinarily available on the vendor’s trolley. Once these publications were, with some disorganisation of the ward’s routine, obtained for him, he would fall to reading or rather scrutinising them with some intensity. Other patients have commented how absorbed in this he always seemed to be for the first couple of hours after breakfast, so far as to be almost entirely oblivious of his fellows in their surrounding beds. On Fridays and Sundays he appeared quite immune to all normal conversational gambits, for most of the day. His bed would then be piled untidily with a variety of newspapers and periodicals, whose slovenly and profuse extent made it difficult to keep his bed clear for meals, temperatures, sheetchanges, gargles and the like.

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Peter Sedgwick, ‘The Reader’s Digest’, NLR I/13-14: £3

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