Dr. Galvan’s long night


“Life is full of consolation prizes.”

Brilliant, fast, full of ideas and reflections. Dr. Galvan’s long night is by extension the life of each of us, but not exactly at night, but during the day. Forced into a well-defined role and ready to wear expressionless masks to create something that then turns out to be empty, we lose sight of the most important things.

The nothing created in the book is contained in the superfluous processing of business cards. Pieces of paper born to be trashed, designed to present oneself as what one is not, especially in the world work, to inspire awe and get lost in competitions in which no one wins, but everyone loses.

The setting is in a hospital, and precisely in an emergency room, but it could be any office or workplace, where everyone aims to take care of their garden. 

The text is an important and suitable basis for creating a play: precise timing and words to be staged on the stage; grotesque situations and shrewd jokes that keep the audience’s attention high. We have read it in Italian, but we are sure that it would have been better to read it in the original language, because for some linguistic nuances that can be perceived in the reading, we note that they were difficult or even impossible to adapt in our language by the translator. The same is valid if we consider the subtle games of implication about the organization of the French national health system, which we cannot know.

The book is a glass of fresh water drunk in a single sip, which leaves you feeling fresh and satisfying. Not only the sentence that we have decided to indicate here as a quotation appears to us perfect, but also others, which have turned out to be corners for reflections of life; thrown there as if nothing had happened, they become milestones of the writing that we have greatly appreciated.

The ending of the story is the mirror of the author’s wit: a final stroke of genius that does not leave you dissatisfied, but rather opens the door to a continuation of the story, perhaps leaving poor Dr. Galvan alone, but developing the secondary characters of the story, or even the sick indirect protagonist.


Daniel Pennac, Dr. Galvan’s long night, Feltrinelli, Milano, 2008

Original edition: Ancien malade des hôpitaux de Paris, Gallimard, Paris, 2005

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