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En antropolog på Mars (1995)

av Oliver Sacks

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner / Omnämnanden
4,166562,814 (4.1)1 / 102
The author profiles seven neurological patients, including a surgeon with Tourette's syndrome and an artist whose color sense is destroyed in an accident but finds new creative power in black and white.
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This collection of essays presents case studies of seven individuals, though unlike other books by the author, none of these people were patients of Sacks'. They were either born with a condition such as autism, or sustained a brain injury due to stroke or disease, such as a brain tumour or an infection. In the case of the two autistic individuals, both have gifts - the ability to draw buildings in detail when only glanced at, or the ability to design systems for the humane slaughter of cattle and pigs and run a successful business based around that. The latter is an apparently well-known high-functioning autistic woman called Temple Grandin who wrote a book on her experiences as an autistic person and lectured on the subject as well. I'd never heard of her, but that didn't detract from the section about her, which concludes the book.

With the people who suffered brain injury, some were able to turn their condition to a positive outcome, for example, the artist who lost his ability to perceive colour but was able to move to monochrome instead. However, the man who could not remember anything after around 1967 does come across as a tragic case, as does the blind man who, sight restored, found the greatest difficulty adapting - illustrating that seeing is not just a matter of the eyes but a complex process taking place in multiple areas of the brain to result in something that makes sense at the conscious level. And that it is also mastered when we are babies - that we have to learn to interpret the visual input entering via the eyes and into the brain's various processing areas. That idea was interesting.

I had a few problems with the book. One is the author's tendency to introduce medical terms regarding areas of the brain or conditions without explaining them. A glossary and a diagram of the brain would have greatly assisted. To some extent the book comes across as not being a coherent whole, and when I checked the copyright page, I discovered that earlier versions of all the chapters had been previously published in The New York Review of Books, which would explain its lack of focus.

Apart from the vignette about the blind man, which does have some valuable conclusions as mentioned above, there is no real resolution to the case histories. Possibly this general deficiency is due to the book's 1995 publication date: the reasons why certain things happened, or how the brain worked in particular ways, wasn't known then. Perhaps those are still unknowns, but I found it frustrating.

Disquietingly, there is a tendency to ponder whether the people under consideration are really 'human' especially Stephen, the autistic boy-artist, as in whether they have the same kinds of emotions and feelings of identity as people lacking those conditions. The word 'retarded' is used quite a bit, though in 1995 that was probably still an acceptable medical term. The author went on holiday with Stephen, but basically did so to study him, rather than because he liked him. And that made me a bit uncomfortable in a way I hadn't been with previous books by this author. So altogether I would rate this as a 3 star read. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Sacks is always worthwhile. Fascinating explorations of how we construct and are constructed. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
Seven case studies, very much a continuation of the Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. I was particularly interested in the Case of The Colour-Blind Painter, and the colour studies on the mind, both in physics and neurology. Some of the chapter on The Last Hippie I had read about before in Uncle Tungsten. Overall Sacks presents each character as someone to be admired, and celebrates the human ability to adapt to challenges. ( )
  AChild | May 30, 2022 |
More good stuff from Sacks. More "everyday" conditions than The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, focusing on autism in particular. ( )
  hierogrammate | Jan 31, 2022 |
More good stuff from Sacks. More "everyday" conditions than The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, focusing on autism in particular.
  hierogrammate | Jan 31, 2022 |
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The universe is not only queerer than we imagine, but queerer than we can imagine.
J. B. S. Haldane
Ask not what disease the person has, but rather what person the disease has.
(attributed to) William Osler
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To the seven whose stories are related here
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I am writing this with my left hand, although I am strongly right-handed.
Early in March 1986 I received the following letter:
I am a rather successful artist just past 65 years of age.
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The author profiles seven neurological patients, including a surgeon with Tourette's syndrome and an artist whose color sense is destroyed in an accident but finds new creative power in black and white.

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