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Buying a house while swimming round City Island


The Island of the Colourblind
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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So here, I now had two modes of presentation. I wrote a book called the Island of the Colorblind. I refer to Guam as Cycad Island. It was really a double book. Robert Louis Stevenson has a book called Travels on a Donkey [sic], but this is a twin book and my Island of the Colorblind was a twin book. There were two experiences. And at the same time there were two films. I confess I was infuriated when Picador, my publishers in England, said on the book cover, 'The book of the film'. I thought, ‘Fuck them!’ No, it... the book of the film, it might have been the film of the book. But, in fact, the book and the film were... were quite different in character and nature and I think the verbal and the visual may... may have to be. I think they’re... they are equally important and this goes back to my Awakenings days when as I said, I would carry a notebook in one hand and a... and a little movie camera, a Super 8 camera, in the other. People often say to me, 'What’s your favourite book?' I say, 'I don’t have favourites'. It’s like saying, what’s your favourite element? Or, what’s your favourite child?  What’s your favourite student?  But, in fact, I have a soft spot for the Island of the Colorblind, and more than any other of my books, this takes me back to Micronesia, to my love of islands, to other peoples, to travel, to adventure. 

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: Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, Island of the Colourblind, Guam, Picador, Awakenings, Micronesia, Pingelap, Pohnpei, Robert Louis Stevenson

Duration: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012