The Politics of Passion

The Politics of Passion: Norman Bethune's Writing and Art

Edited and introduced by Larry Hannant
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 400
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442682092
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Passion
    Book Description:

    This collection of the artistic and written work of Dr Norman Bethune reveals the many sides of his identity, exploring not only the life of a revolutionary doctor, but of an intense and compassionate artist.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8209-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    Norman Bethune is not well known in the country of his birth, but internationally he might be the most famous Canadian. His fame is well justified. Born in 1890, in the 1920s his successful career as a doctor was shattered when he contracted tuberculosis. It was then a lethal disease, and he prepared himself to die from it. But in 1927, he insisted on a radical medical procedure which spared him. Attacking life with new zeal, he quickly made his name known as a crusader against tuberculosis. He gained both favourable attention and notoriety in medical circles as an iconoclastic...

  6. 2 Adventurer: Youth to December 1927
    (pp. 12-32)

    Norman Bethune was born on 3 March 1890. Or was it 4 March 1890? Ontario birth registration records give the former date, but Bethune himself celebrated his birth on the latter.¹ The dispute over the precise date is probably less significant than the fact that Bethune had achosenbirthday, not a chance one. And how appropriate that the one chosen is the only date on the calendar which issues a command. ‘March forth’ was exactly what Norman Bethune did.

    As a second child, Bethune was born to rebel. He was nothing if not restless, indeed driven. His life ranged...

  7. 3 Crusader: Montreal, 1928–1934
    (pp. 33-69)

    With the New Year in 1928, Norman Bethune began his second life. In part it was a physical rebirth, certified by his release from Trudeau Sanatorium, his tuberculous lung stabilized. It was also a psychological and moral rebirth. The new Bethune was now an evangelist – not, to be sure, in the mode of his Christian father, with whom he strongly disagreed. No, his was a crusade against tuberculosis and the social conditions that caused it. His distaste for his father’s vocation, however, did not blind him to the fact that in his campaign to eradicate tuberculosis he had, after...

  8. 4 Convert: 1935–1936
    (pp. 70-117)

    The years 1935 and 1936 made the Norman Bethune we know today –enfant terrible, advocate of socialized medicine, communist. In the space of mere months, both his political sentiments and his career were remarkably altered. Our contemporary image of Bethune is so wedded to him as a communist that we assume he was always a confirmed Bolshevik. On the contrary, in the years up to 1935 Bethune was anything but a leftist. For the first forty-five years of his life, Bethune showed no inclination to join the political fray.¹ He was a communist for only his last four years....

  9. 5 Anti-fascist: Spain, November 1936 to May 1937
    (pp. 118-165)

    Much about Bethune in Spain remains shrouded in mystery or controversy. There is still argument over what took him there, what forced him to leave, and what he accomplished. Perhaps only the surface data are agreed upon.

    Bethune departed from Quebec City for Spain on 24 October 1936 and arrived in Madrid on 3 November, just days before Franco’s right-wing forces unleashed a savage offensive on the Republican capital. The city was saved by the hastily organized Spanish militia, the Communist Fifth Regiment, and the first units of the International Brigades, antifascists who, at the peak of their strength, would...

  10. 6 Propagandist: North America, June 1937 to January 1938
    (pp. 166-194)

    For six months, a man who by habit poured his passion onto the printed page, even in the midst of battle, was astonishingly restrained on paper. Although he was proclaimed as a hero on his return to Canada, and not only in the communist press, his pen inscribed no invective or analysis and only a few letters. In the absence of these clues to his state of mind, we must look to newspaper articles in which he was quoted extensively and which thereby give a hint of his own thoughts at the time.

    Why did Bethune write so little during...

  11. 7 Anti-imperialist: China, 1938
    (pp. 195-327)

    Henning Sorensen observed: ‘When I look upon the life of Norman Bethune, it seems to me to be one long preparation for the final period – his life and work in China.’¹ In China, Bethune found a movement and a people that satisfied his ideal of communism. Their communism, he wrote, was ‘automatic as the beating of their hearts.’ It was motivated at once by an implacable hatred of Japanese militarism and a world-embracing love for all those who sided with them in their struggle. Perhaps more impressive still, the Chinese communists seemed to be devoid of personal vanity and...

  12. 8 Martyr: China, 1939
    (pp. 328-360)

    Nineteen thirty-nine was the last year of Bethune’s life. On 4 March he turned forty-nine, marking the date by writing a three-thousand-word letter to comrades in Canada after operating through the entire night. Despite his age, he maintained his hectic pace, leading his mobile operating unit through the rough Chin-Ch’a-Chi border region to dozens of battles and skirmishes with the Japanese. In one Japanese offensive in April, his unit operated for sixty-nine consecutive hours on 115 wounded men, a feat of endurance and dedication which further enhanced his stellar reputation in the Eighth Route Army.¹ This work often took him...

  13. Appendix 1: Report on the Actions of the Canadian Delegation in Spain
    (pp. 361-364)
  14. Appendix 2: Chronology of the Life of Dr Norman Bethune
    (pp. 365-368)
  15. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 369-372)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 373-382)
  17. Bibliography of Bethune’S Works
    (pp. 383-384)
  18. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 385-386)
  19. Index
    (pp. 387-396)