For thirty-four years Homer W. Smith was associated with the New York University Medical School, both in teaching and administrative capacities, and he served as chairman of its Department of Physiology. He had an eminent career as a physiologist, and his major work on the kidney is regarded as an important contribution to the literature on that subject.
He wrote two novels. The second, The End of Illusion, which many critics considered rather contrived—even mechanical—in its formulations of plot and ideas, deals with a young man who goes to Malaya to enjoy complete freedom and discovers that the freedom he seeks is nothing but an illusion. The first novel, Kamongo, is more successful in its handling of theme. It has a slender story line; its chief interest lies in the detailed account by an American naturalist to an Anglican priest—as they journey homeward on a French steamer through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal—of his capture of the African lungfish, a relic of the Devonian Age when it unsuccessfully sought to sustain itself on land. The naturalist’s narrative, graphic and vivid in the telling, forms only a section of the novel; the remaining portion is the long debate between the two men on various issues of skepticism and faith, with Joel, the scientist, triumphantly demolishing the beliefs of the priest.
The novel, though without formal plot, contains excellent descriptive passages, and Smith’s style, even...
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