Of Spirits and Madness: An American Psychiatrist in Africa

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In 1993, psychiatrist Paul Linde took off on an African adventure. After five years of working on the front lines of psychiatry in the emergency rooms and city jails of San Francisco, Dr. Linde thought he had seen it all. But little had prepared him for the madness and mystery he found at Harare Central Hospital in Zimbabwe, where dozens of new patients flooded through the doors every week, each one a fresh lesson in psychosis, culture-clash, and compassion.

Written in the spirit of Oliver Sacks, Of Spirits and Madness takes us on an adventure into medicine and the mind. With sensitivity, good humor, and growing insight, Linde tells the stories of his patients, their demons and their difficulties.



Excerpts: Of Spirits and Madness

From the Preface:

In my mind, I was just going along for the ride when I agreed to go to Africa with my wife. Laurie, trained in pediatrics, knew her life dream: to work as a doctor in Africa.

What would I do in Africa? I was trained as a psychiatrist, for heaven's sake. I thought about faking it as a general practitioner in the bush. I considered a stint submitting travel articles or trying my hand at writing fiction. While Laurie saved the lives of African children, I envisioned myself alone -- sweating, drinking potent “crash” coffee in the morning and African lager in the afternoon, pecking away at the keys of a rickety typewriter for hours at a time.

But eventually I woke up from that dream and began a search for international opportunities to work as a psychiatrist. For more than a year ahead of our tentative departure date, Laurie and I tried valiantly to line up overseas jobs. Having waded through reams of international red tape to no avail, we grew tired of waiting so we packed up our lives and flew off to Bali to begin a meandering tour of Southeast Asia. Our plan was to make our way to Zimbabwe, where we had a few tenuous leads and the medical school was perpetually trying to recruit more faculty members. At best, we'd find work. At worst, we'd travel around Africa until the money ran out.



Critical acclaim for: Of Spirits and Madness: An American Psychiatrist in Africa

“Of Spirits and Madness opens a window into a culture at once alien and yet strangely familiar. Linde's experiences as an American psychiatrist in Zimbabwe make for a compelling narrative.”
Abraham Verghese, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Stanford University, author of Cutting for Stone, My Own Country, and The Tennis Partner

“In the manner of Oliver Sacks, Linde tells stories of individual patients with good humor and sensitivity. . . . He is an excellent guide into a world that seems at first unbelievable but eventually becomes strangely recognizable in its human suffering.”
San Jose Mercury News

“One must admire Dr. Linde's ability to adapt, to listen and learn, to empathize with what is foreign to him, and to make friends, sometimes across surprising boundaries: an exemplar of 'the good doctor.'”
New England Journal of Medicine

“It is amazing that a white man should have survived to record-with incredible empathy-such an insightful account of the African mind. Linde brings back memories of my culture, the language, the people, and, above all, the humor, representing a culturally diverse situation with such profound accuracy.”
Sekai Nzenza Shand, author of Songs to an African Sunset: A Zimbabwean Story

“Revealing glimpses, sometimes amusing, sometimes appalling, of a world where spirits are accepted as a part of everyday life.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Linde makes medical jargon easily accessible to a lay audience. Self-deprecating humor and wry remarks punctuate his prose.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Each of Linde's eleven chapters reads like a mini-detective novel as he tries to ferret out the truth behind a person's illness.”
Chicago Tribune

“An enthralling, edifying, gracefully written account of a psychiatrist's entry into a spirit-infested world of bewitchment, tropical disease, poverty, violence, and AIDS.”
Irvin Yalom, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Stanford University, author of Momma and the Meaning of Life and Love's Executioner

“This is a wonderful book. . . . It reiterates eloquently lessons lost by our medical establishment and our populace, which need to be regained.”
Journal of the American Medical Association

“(This is) a story of a young doctor's learning abroad-the wisdom of others, so vulnerable and needy, extended his way, and now, through him, becomes ours to contemplate.”
Robert Coles, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities, Harvard Medical School, compiler of The Doctor Stories by William Carlos Williams

“(A) provocative and compelling account.”
Psychiatric Services

“Of Spirits and Madness is an amazingly captivating book--truly a gem that unravels the intricacies of cultural psychiatry.”
Northern California Psychiatric Physician

“In this splendid book, Linde helps us see how the day goes in Africa, and the reader is richer for the experience.”
Synapse, UCSF School of Medicine Newspaper