Axel Munthe

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Axel Martin Fredrik Munthe (October 31, 1857, Oskarshamn, Sweden – February 11, 1949, Stockholm) was a Swedish psychiatrist, best known as the author of The Story of San Michele, an autobiographical account of his life and work.

Axel Munthe had a multi-national character and spoke several languages (Swedish, English, French, Italian fluently, and German at least passably), growing up in Sweden, attending medical school and opening his first practice in France. He was married to an English aristocrat, and spent most of his adult life in Italy. Munthe had a philanthropic nature, often treating the poor without charge at his medical practices, and risking his life on several occasions to help in times of war, disaster, or plague when he could have remained at a safe distance. He was a tireless advocate of animal rights, purchasing land to create a bird sanctuary near his home in Italy, advocating bans on painful traps, and keeping pets as diverse as an owl and a baboon, and many different kinds of dogs. His writing is light-hearted, being primarily memoirs drawn from his real-life experiences but often tinged with sad or tragic events, often using dramatic license. He primarily wrote about people and their idiosyncrasies, portraying the foibles of both the rich and the poor and about a few animals as well.



Axel Munthe's family was originally Flemish descent who settled in Sweden during the 16th century.

Early life

Munthe began college in 1874 at Uppsala University.

While travelling in 1875, Munthe sailed in a small boat from Sorrento to the island of Capri. Climbing the Phoenician stairs to the village of Anacapri, he came upon a peasant's house and the adjacent ruin of a chapel dedicated to San Michele and was immediately captivated by the idea of rebuilding the ruin into a home.

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