Nobel Winner Eric Kandel: ‘The Age of Insight,’ Memory, the Holocaust, and the Art of Vienna

Jimmy So in The Daily Beast:

KANDEL_AgeInsight-660x983Start at the end. My advice, if you were to find yourself with a copy of Eric Kandel's new book, The Age of Insight—and I recommend that you do—is to first read the acknowledgments, on page 511. For at the end of this handsome chunk of text come the most personal memories: “I was born in Vienna on November 7, 1929 … Near our house were three museums that I never visited as a child, but whose subject matter later came to fascinate me and that now assumed a significant role in this book.”

The first is the Vienna Medical Museum celebrating, among others, the pioneering work of medical doctor Carl von Rokitansky. The second is the Sigmund Freud Museum, which used to be the great man’s apartment. The third is the Upper Belvedere Museum, which houses the world’s greatest collection of the paintings of Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele. So arrives, in the autumn of a long and decorated life, The Age of Insight, which really is one continuous and loving acknowledgment—of the debt that Kandel owes to the ghosts of great figures.

Kandel, the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University, always has a lab coat that drapes over his body. He wears a bow tie, and holds court in a spectacular corner office overlooking the Hudson River. I walked in thinking these were signs of authority and tradition, of an outer protective layer. But I was mistaken. Kandel laughs so very easily, and when he does his mouth opens like a Muppet’s. He points to a small painting on his wall, a Bruegel-like scene of town folks punching one another. “That? That is Columbia academics,” and bursts into giggles.

More here.