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WH Auden's father


WH Auden as my mentor
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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He... and he... he wrote a lovely review of Migraine and I felt, in a way, that this was the first time that a... someone of grand powers had taken notice of me. I was very excited by this; he was also critically important to the writing of Awakenings because he said to me, 'You’re going to have to go beyond the clinical.' And, you know, 'Be metaphorical, be mythical, be whatever you need.' And the last time I saw him I... he was then at Christchurch, I gave him the manuscript of Awakenings and he called it a masterpiece. And he didn’t use words lightly and I’d never... I’d never had anything like that said to me in my life. As I have said earlier, I’ve been rather lacking in intellectual self-confidence, though often feeling that I’m surrounded by clever people and can’t imagine why they tolerate me. But, in a way, Auden had something of a… was implicitly a, sort of, mentor for me, as was Luria, the great Soviet neuropsychologist who wrote me two letters in 1973, one in response to Awakenings and one in response to an article I had written. So, when Awakenings was published here I... I dedicated it to both men.

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: Migraine, Awakenings, Christchurch College, Oxford, WH Auden, Alexander Luria

Duration: 2 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012