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So, what I can remember is that there are two protagonists: 1 male, 1 female. He is from another culture, and is visiting(?) a place where people practice enduring pain as a...meditation or something? Does this ring a bell for anyone? I feel like it might have been in a fantasy anthology or something of that nature, and if I had to guess wouldn't be older than 5-10 years. Thanks in advance for the help.

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  • Could be starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yuuzhan_Vong from the Star Wars Extended Universe "Yuuzhan Vong culture was centered on sacrifice and their gods, although warriors in particular were centered on the philosophy of pain." – Reuben Mallaby Jun 8 '17 at 10:18
  • Possible duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/80961/… ? – Greenstone Walker Jun 9 '17 at 2:05
  • Can it be Robert Sheckley's The Victim from Space? In that story, a writer from Earth visits a planet where a premature death is considered something to be deserved. Especially virtouous people deserve especially painful death. – Litho Jun 9 '17 at 14:28
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I believe you may be looking for Aldous Huxley's utopian themed Island.

(Quotes from the plot summary in the Wikipedia article as my copy is packed away.)

There is significant use of meditation and hypnotism for pain control in the work:

when a local boy and girl notice him and take him for medical treatment to their grandfather, Dr. Robert MacPhail. Dr. Robert and a young man named Murugan Mailendra carry Farnaby to Robert's house for a surprisingly successful hypnotherapy session led by Susila, Robert's daughter-in-law and the mother of the two children.

and

Dr. Robert recounts the island's history, including how his own Scottish grandfather, Dr. Andrew MacPhail, was called to the island over a century ago to treat the Old Raja's facial tumour using both trance-based mesmerization and actual surgery; this first brought scientific practices and the English language into Palanese culture.

The story is told mainly from the point of view of a male protagonist—Farnaby—but includes significant stretches where he interacts with a female character either one on one or in a small group setting.

Farnaby begins to establish a strong bond with Susila, who directs Farnaby to re-explore his own troubled past, including the death of his wife, Molly, on the night he confessed to cheating on her and his whole hateful childhood; Susila guides him through his painful memories. In the meantime, Susila's mother-in-law and Dr. Robert's wife, Lakshmi, is now also dying, due to cancer. One night, when the Rani urgently sends a letter to Farnaby to meet with her, he decides to finally take a stand against the exploitation of the island by Aldehyde and Dipa, and so he ignores her letter, instead going to visit the quickly-fading Lakshmi who, surrounded by her family, finally dies.

The inhabitants of the eponymous landmass practice a variant of Buddhism informed by a text written a few generations ago incorperating scientific practices into their existing spirituality

As he recuperates, Farnaby reads Dr. Robert's copy of the Old Raja's Notes on What's What, and What It Might be Reasonable to do about What's What, which outlines Palanese practical philosophies for self-improvement and self-actualisation. He then tours the island's educational system, which merges the sciences, the arts, and self-control techniques with the personal search for spiritual self-fulfillment.

Though the work is generally called a novel it is quite a short one that might be better described as a novella or even a novelette, and it is not unbelievable that it could have been included in a large anthology.

Despite it's publication date in the 1960s the work has a surprisingly up-to-date feel in many aspects.

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