Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Walker Percy
Walker Percy "If I had the choice of knowing the truth or searching for the truth, I'd take the search."

Walker Percy (1916-90)
MD 1941

Alabama-born, Mississippi-raised and North Carolina-educated, the writer and essayist Walker Percy rejected the conventions of Southern writing (which he called "a phased-out genre") in favor of a deeply felt Christian existentialism. Inspired by Søren Kierkegaard and other European authors, Percy meditated on faith and satirized the flaws of secular society in six novels, among them The Moviegoer (1962), which won the National Book Award, The Last Gentleman (1966), and Love in the Ruins (1971). He repeatedly drew on his own experiences -- not least of which his father's suicide -- to depict youngish male protagonists who struggled with the failings of their fathers.

After graduating from Columbia's College of Physicians & Surgeons, Percy contracted tuberculosis while serving his residency at Bellevue Hospital. It was during his three-year convalescence that he took up the literature and philosophy that stoked his interest in existentialism so central to his later writing. Percy never practiced medicine again, but often drew on recollections of former patients in creating fictional characters. It was also while a student at P&S that Percy underwent psychoanalysis, which in his novels became a recurring foil for his observations.

Read more about Walker Percy in the Columbia Encyclopedia.


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