Friday, December 20, 2013

The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat is a book written by eminent neurologist Oliver Sacks. In this book he describes the case histories of some of his patients who have neurological disorders that are quite perplexing to comprehend for ordinary people like us. These are people who live among us and whom we consider arrogant or devoid of manners and never realize their behavior is due to a medical problem. Sometimes they themselves never realize they have a condition.

The book constitutes of twenty four essays that are divided into four segments, each of the segment dedicated for a particular kind of disorder. The title essay is about a man who sees the world as geometric patterns and once during an appointment mistook his wife for his hat. The most pathetic fact is that, like some other cases in this book, he never realizes he has this problem. There is a story of another man who is 70 years old, but is stuck in his youth and behaves like a young intelligent 30 year person. A lady one fine day starts hearing music playing in her head with all its minutest of details. There is an essay about a pair of twins who seems mentally retarded, but can do complicated mathematics in their heads and their favorite pass-time is exchanging prime numbers of highest levels.

Oliver Sacks, while narrating these stories, treads a thin line. On one side there is a danger of sensationalism and on the other side, that of the text becoming too dry, devoid of any compassion. But to his credit, the writer has made these accounts with enough humanity and subtle humor that the reader feels genuine interest and empathy for the protagonists. While reading this book reader finds out what a unique instrument human brain is and also how fragile it is. That is, I feel the success of this book.

1 comment:

  1. I'd recommended this book to my sister, who studied psychology and she loved it! Your review makes me want to read it myself.