Happy World Kidney Day!

Thanks to the inexorable Dave Lull for the link to this amazing A-to-Z insomnia cure by the Possessed super cover artist, Roz Chast. Apparently, when Chast is lying awake nights (probably, from wondering whether The Possessed will drop from the Amazon top-1,000 list), she passes the time by trying to think of physical afflictions starting with each letter of the alphabet. I forwarded her list to my father, a nephrologist, with a note to check out the letter K:


I just received the following response:

Elif, thanks!! And today is world kidney day, really.


Yes, dear readers, March 11 is really World Kidney Day and has been officially recognized by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, American rock icon Meat Loaf, world superpower China, and now C-list writer Elif Batuman.

This World Kidney Day, I find myself recalling fond nephrology-related memories from my childhood, like the time we went on a nephrologists’ outing to Bear Island with a totally sodium-free picnic, so it was a holiday for our kidneys, too!  (This was the first and last time I ever ate unsalted potato chips, which were very peculiar.)  Another time, my father gave me a beautiful kidney-shaped bumper sticker, red with white lettering, that said: “I Love You from the Bottom of My Kidney.”  I put it on my lunchbox.

Tender-hearted readers!  I trust that you are moved by these touching reminiscences to the extent that now, like Sarkozy and Meat Loaf, you too would like to do something special to commemorate World Kidney Day.  Here are some thoughtful suggestions:

Your kidneys will thank you (if I may be so bold as to speak for your kidneys), and so will I!

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8 Responses to “Happy World Kidney Day!”

  1. SW Foska Says:

    Happy WKD to you too! Maybe the concept is to be interpreted differently – the day of the World Kidney, or as the Germans might say, die Weltniere. I mean if there’s a Weltgeist, why not? It could be the missing junction-box of all internationalist ideologies up to this point. the reason communism collapsed, and the explanation for many other things.

  2. Dave Lull Says:

    A nephrologist’s daughter has written about “Sergei Paradjanov: film-maker of outrageous imagination” in the Guardian, without once mentioning kidneys or her father the nephrologist:

  3. Warren Says:


    Kidney Schmidney – I do believe James Wood has read The Possessed. Is this not the news of the day? Wasn’t that one of your lines he quoted in his recent review: about a room filled with old computers, the smell of aftershave and bacon?

  4. Elif Says:

    You must be thinking of the computer-lounge description from “Summer in Samarkand,” but that was deodorant, not aftershave, and definitely not bacon:

    James Wood: “… the rather lazy stock-in-trade of mainstream realist fiction: the cinematic sweep, followed by the selection of small, telling details (’It was a large room, filled almost entirely by rows of antique computers; there was an odd smell of aftershave and bacon’)…”

    Me: “… we often proceeded to the Internet salon in the Soviet part of the city: an infernal building jam-packed with teenagers who were possessedly manipulating avatars through gutted buildings and abandoned warehouses, shooting one another in the back with Uzis. Periodically, some young person, shot in the back one too many times, would leave in disgust, at which point the proprietor rushed to the abandoned station and sprayed the chair and computer keyboard from a can of Sure deodorant. Chemical clouds of shower-fresh deodorant hung in the sultry air, adding a certain je ne sais quoi to the ambience.”

    Wood does complain about a lot of the same things I complain about in my trash-talking about MFA fiction (in both The Possessed and my 2006 n+1 piece on short stories), e.g. (to quote him) “the preference for the concrete over the abstract,” “vivid brevity of character-sketching,” and the repetition of proper names (”how strange it is, when you think about it, that thousands of novels are published every year, in which characters all have different names (whereas, in real life, doesn’t one always have at least three friends named John, and another three named Elizabeth?)”). I also wrote about how off-putting all the different supposedly-concrete names are, and how great it is that Tolstoy reuses names, e.g. (to quote me) “Anna’s maid and daughter were both called Anna, and Anna’s son and Levin’s brother were both Sergei. The repetition of names struck me as remarkable, surprising, and true to life.”

    That said, I refuse to transform my blog into the vehicle for poring over James Wood and trying to decipher whether he quoted me or not! Wouldn’t he just mention me if he wanted to quote me? I think he would. And I don’t think this is any reason to stop worrying about/ celebrating our kidneys.

  5. Dave Lull Says:

    February 25, 2013
    Cover Story: Roz Chast Appreciates Art

  6. Dave Lull Says:

    The New Yorker
    Dept. of Medicine
    Poisoned Land
    On the trail of a mystery disease in the Balkans.
    by Elif Batuman August 12, 2013

    Subscribers can read the full version of this story by logging into our digital archive. You can also subscribe now or find out about other ways to read The New Yorker digitally.

    Last September, at a hospital in eastern Croatia, my father and I visited a collection of some four hundred human kidneys. Most had belonged to the victims of a mysterious, fatal kidney disease, which occurs in agrarian communities on the Danube River and its tributaries. Some villages have it; others, seemingly identical in every way, do not. The onset of the disease, which is known as Balkan endemic nephropathy (often abbreviated as BEN), takes place in middle to later life, after the patient has lived in an affected village for fifteen or twenty years. The first symptoms include weakness, anemia, and a coppery skin discoloration. The kidneys begin to atrophy, and about half of patients also develop a rare cancer of the upper urinary tract. Without a kidney transplant or treatment by dialysis, death usually occurs within a year.

  7. Dave Lull Says:

    AUGUST 8, 2013

    In this week’s issue of the magazine, Elif Batuman writes about travelling with her father, a nephrologist who has been studying a mysterious, fatal kidney disease known as Balkan endemic nephropathy, or BEN.

    [. . .]

    Carolyn Drake, a photographer whose work, from her book, “Two Rivers,” was featured by the magazine in a recent portfolio, traced Batuman’s steps in Croatia and Bosnia for this piece.

    [. . .]

  8. Dave Lull Says:

    “The floods came like insatiable beasts”

    “In September 2012, I spent a day in Odžak, Bosnia, reporting a story for the New Yorker about Balkan Endemic Nephropathy, a mysterious kidney disease that only affects isolated agrarian communities in Bulgaria, Romania, and former Yugoslavia. I was traveling with my father, a nephrologist who used to study this rare disease in the late 1980s, before research was suspended by the war.

    [. . .] The nephrologist at the Odžak hospital didn’t speak English, but had hired a translator for the day: Željko Paradžik, a young law graduate from the village of Prud. We spent the afternoon touring the endemic villages together, interviewing patients and their families, and tramping around the cornfields and wetlands, looking for poisonous weeds. [. . .]

    Last Tuesday, I woke up to find an email from Željko about the devastation of his village, Prud, by the worst flooding in decades. [. . .]

    Over the past week, in the downtime from trying to save people and animals, Željko has been writing an account of his experiences. I hope that his moving words will bring support to his home for the long road ahead.”

    —Elif Batuman

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