the human mind through stories


Oliver Sacks has been telling us some of the strangest stories in the world for forty years now. A neurologist, he writes of the ways in which the human brain both invents and perceives the world. He does so through endless anecdotes, told in an unadorned, attractive style. He draws no conclusions; his aim is to ask questions. The big one in this book is: ‘To what extent are we the authors, the creators, of our own experiences?’ The evidence for such a proposition has been mounting ever since the Seventies, when it became clear that the brain was not as hardwired as we thought it was. To a startling extent, it can remodel itself to cope with changes, especially those involving trauma. This book is all about changes in the sense of sight. This time Sacks himself is one of the patients. In 2005 he found he had a melanoma in his right eye. The effects and the ensuing treatment are described in a way that is both clinical and harrowing.

more from Bryan Appleyard at Literary Review here.