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Luria's conciseness


Richard Gregory's review and receiving letters from Luria
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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Just before Awakenings came out, in fact, on its publication day on June 28th, Richard Gregory had a wonderful... was a man I... whom I met in Colin’s office and whom I admired and loved very greatly – and I’ve been very grieved at his death recently, and I want to write about him – but Richard wrote a wonderful review of Awakenings, and... I wrote an article... about Luria. And then in July, I got two letters from Luria, in receiving letters from him, Luria in his autobiography describes how as a young man, in fact as a 19-year-old who had ‘founded’ the grandiloquently titled Kazan Psychoanalytical Society, he received a letter from Freud who did not realise that he was writing to a 19-year-old, and Luria described his excitement at receiving a letter from Freud. I had a similar excitement receiving a letter from Luria.

In his first letter, he dealt at length with all the points I’d raised in my article and thanked me for writing the article, though in no uncertain terms, though very courteous tones indicated that he thought I was deeply mistaken in various ways. And then, a few days later, I got another letter which was his response to Awakenings, and... and there he spoke of his delight with Awakenings. And... I never met Luria, some inhibition prevented me from going to Moscow, which I could have done easily.

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Sacks treated these patients with the then-experimental drug L-Dopa producing astounding results which he described in his book Awakenings. Further cases of neurological disorders were described by Sacks with exceptional sympathy in another major book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat which became an instant best seller on its publication in 1985. His other books drew on his rich experiences as a neurologist gleaned over almost five decades of professional practice. Sacks's work was recognized by prestigious institutions which awarded him numerous honours and prizes. These included the Lewis Thomas Prize given by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He was an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.

Listeners: Kate Edgar

Kate Edgar, previously Managing Editor at the Summit Books division of Simon and Schuster, began working with Oliver Sacks in 1983. She has served as editor and researcher on all of his books, and has been closely involved with various films and adaptations based on his work. As friend, assistant, and collaborator, she has accompanied Dr Sacks on many adventures around the world, clinical and otherwise.

Tags: Awakenings, Richard Gregory, Alexander Romanovich Luria, Sigmund Freud

Duration: 2 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012