Arnold van de Laar / Arnold van de Laar – Under The Knife

Arnold van de Laar – Under The Knife

Arnold van de Laar – Under The Knife

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Rights sold

  • John Murray (UK)
  • Droemer Knaur (Germany)
  • St. Martin’s Press (USA)
  • Salamandra (Spain)
  • KOC Üniversitesi Yay?nlar? (Turkey)
  • EULAY (South-Korea)
  • United Sky (China)
  • Eksmo (Russia)
  • Tchelet Israël (Israel)
  • Literackie (Poland)


About the book

Under the Knife is a history of surgery told in twenty-eight  remarkable operations.

‘Surgeon’ derives from the Greek for ‘hand work’, and since the dawn of time the surgeon has been charged with the task of patching people up when they need it. From the dark centuries of bloodletting and of amputations without anesthetic to today’s sterile, high-tech operating theatres, surgeon Arnold van de Laar takes us on a journey through the wayward history of surgery. The patients that feature in his story are hardly ordinary: Empress Sissi (stabbed), Louis XIV (fistula in the anus), Pope John Paul II (colostomy), John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald (gunshot wounds), Lenin (cerebral infarction), Houdini (ruptured appendix), Albert Einstein (aneurysm) and Bob Marley (melanoma under the toenail). Van de Laar uses medical case histories that fire the imagination to examine issues of the past, present and future. His tone is lucid and professional, and harsh reality is tempered by plenty of humour, making Under the Knife a rich medical and cultural history and a modern anatomy lesson for us all.

‘Van de Laar renders complex surgical procedures not only understandable, but also immensely entertaining (…) Sit back, relax and enjoy this boisterous exploration of the surgeons craft.’ THE TIMES

‘This is history with a surgeon’s touch: deft, incisive and sometimes excruciating bloody (…) Under the Knife is rich in historical colour, traces the evolution of surgery from the rough craft to what it is today: a fascinating combination of art, medical science and still – daring – butchery.’ SUNDAY TIMES

‘Under the Knife does not aim to be comprehensive, just eye-opening and, frequently, eye-watering (…) a fascinating history of surgery.’ ***** TELEGRAPH


Arnold van de Laar is a surgeon in the Slotervaart Hospital in Amsterdam, specialising in laparoscopic surgery. Born in 1969 in the Dutch town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, van de Laar became fascinated by how the human body works in school biology lessons and went on to study medicine at the Belgian University of Leuven. Having travelled the world – the Himalayas, Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, Kashmir, and extensively in Africa – van de Laar took his first job as general surgeon on the Caribbean Island of Sint Maarten. He started writing pieces on surgical history in the Dutch medical journal Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Heelkunde in 2009.

(c) Keke Keukelaar

Additional book information

  • Non-fiction
  • ISBN 9789400402294
  • Number of pages: 414
  • World rights: Thomas Rap
  • Price: € 19,90
  • English manuscript available