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The Doctor's Wife
by Sawako Ariyoshi

picture of novel by  Sawako Ariyoshi

Hanoaka Sheishu no tsuma published in Shincho, November, 1966; book published under the same title, Shincho Sha, 1967; translation by Wakako Hironaka and Ann Siller Kostant published as The Doctor's Wife, Kodansha, 1978.

The Doctor's Wife by Japanese novelist Sawako Ariyoshi (1931-1984) evokes the rivalry between the wife and mother of Seishu Hanaoka (1760-1835). Hanaoka discovered what we would now call general anaesthesia. In the novel, his wife and mother compete to display the depth of their devotion to Hanaoka by acting as guinea pigs in his quest for an ideal herbal anaesthetic. His wife goes blind in consequence. Much remains obscure about real-world Hanaoka's life and inspiration; but Ariyoshi's novel is built around a well-documented kernel of historical fact.


Utopian Surgery
Japan's Seishu Hanaoka
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics