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Body Art Damien a gynaecological consultant and lapsed Catholic replaces Christian icons with modern art; he worships the absence of God in the abstract staining of paint and ink But when a vagrant young art student shows up in the ward he once has cause to uestion his personal and aesthetic convictions Part of the Storycuts series this short story was originally published in the collection Little Black Book of Stories Lost FaithWhat’s my religion None I’m an atheist Should the conversation go deeper it may be relevant to mention I was raised an Anglican I know many former Anglicans who identify as atheist or agnostic But non believers who were raised as Roman Catholics invariably identify as some sort of Catholic usually “lapsed” They can’t shake off the label of the religion they no longer followDr Damian Becket is weighed down by his inability to free himself from the faith he no longer believes in “His way of life still ran furiously along the narrow channels cut by his upbringing” He long ago separated from his wife but considers himself “hopelessly and helplessly married” and is repelled by a woman’s intimate piercings because they remind him of the crucifixionBodies and ArtHe’s a gynaecologist with a passion for art “He discovered colour and worshipped the absence of God in the material staining of paint and ink” He’s on the hospital’s art committee including responsibility for a Victorian benefactor’s collection of medical curiosities Take it a step further and use medical parts as artShocking and AwfulBut disturbing art is not the dark aspect of this story It took a very unexpected turn in a veiled understated way No magic corporeal nastiness of an all to real kind Perhaps this was less controversial in 2003 but now it almost needs a trigger warningview spoilerThe doctor is an abuser Torn between two women he sleeps with the one he knows is medically damaged and emotionally vulnerable Her pregnancy is almost miraculous He bullies her into carrying the baby to term “He oversaw X’s pregnancy in a manner both cunning and draconian” ignoring ethics acting paternalistically to her even though he’s the father of her baby “The defiance had gone out of her and was replaced by an unnerving combination of resignation and fear” He’s adamant that the baby must be born even if he raises it alone He chooses the nanny who expresses an interest in art especially colour I was uncertain whether Byatt was making a case against abortion or against virulent anti abortionists The plot of the final story of the collection this was published in see note below suggests a compassionate interpretation hide spoiler

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