Pain regularly accompanies illness, as David Biro knows only too well. Faced with a bone marrow transplant, the young doctor was determined to study his pain but found himself unable to articulate its depths, even to his doctors and wife. He has now discovered a way to break through the silent wall of suffering―physical and psychological―and wants to share it with others. In his new book, the critically acclaimed author expertly weaves together compelling stories and artwork from patients along with insights from some of our greatest thinkers, writers, and artists.


In the tradition of Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, Biro’s groundbreaking book is sure to transform our understanding of and ability to communicate pain. Language can alleviate the loneliness of pain and improve the chances that other people―family, friends, and doctors―empathize and respond most effectively.

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“True genius….Although several books provide first-person accounts of illness and pain, Biro’s use in The Language of Pain of many different experiences (fictional and real) to construct a broader commentary is an important and unique contribution. He moves beyond simply recounting events and instead actually transforms how the reader thinks about pain. In a rather remarkable way, he even demands better accountability from clinicians in terms of how pain is managed.”
— Preeti N. Malani, The Journal of the American Medical Association


“Here’s a pain medication you can’t get at the pharmacy…Thoughtful, lyrical…
We should pay attention to Biro’s difficult, complicated lesson.”
 Publishers Weekly


“Biro brings an extraordinary range of voices into this silence and moves
through a huge variety of experience and narrative, without straying too far from
the bedside…[His book] resonates not only with the common certainties of pain and death
but also with the infinite individuality of human life and human voice.”
— Perri Klass, The Washington Post


“This well-researched book will be helpful to medical professionals
and psychologists as well as those who suffer from chronic or extreme pain,
offering encouragement and inspiration for explaining their experiences to their doctors.”
— Library Journal


“A literate and deeply felt work of medical philosophy that ponders the subtle mystery of
how words give meaning to—and even relief from—corporeal and psychic anguish.”
— Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression


“David Biro makes effective use of his ability to write as a physician,
as a literary scholar, and as someone who has faced a life-threatening illness.
The Language of Pain breaks new ground both as a study of metaphor and as a demonstration
of the clinical relevance of literary texts. Clinicians who treat pain, people struggling to express
their own pain, and scholars of literature and medicine will find much to appreciate in this book.”
— Arthur W. Frank, author of The Wounded Storyteller and The Renewal of Generosity


“Biro’s meditation on pain beautifully distills metaphors of experience
from literature, medicine, and real life. The author reveals how patients,
struggling against isolation, reach out with words to touch their pain, and, in the
process, touch others. Human connections transform pain for this doctor (and patient),
who builds a welcoming bridge between clinical medicine and the humanities. Bravo!”
— Arthur Kleinman, author of The Illness Narratives


“Enlightening… rich in its philosophic and literary meditations on pain and
metaphor… Biro is to be commended for the acuity and sensitivity of his reflections
— Raymond C. Tait, PsycCritiques, the American Psychological Association