Life happened because I turned the pages~~Alberto Manguel

Monday, August 20, 2007

From 'Mem, mem' to memoir

This is a remarkable story, and a compelling piece of writing.

The writer Paul West suffered a massive stroke that caused global aphasia. As his wife records:

"The author of more than 50 stylishly written books, a master of English prose with the largest working vocabulary I’d ever encountered, a man whose life revolved around words, he had suffered brain damage to the key language areas of his brain and could no longer process language in any form. Global aphasia, it’s called — the curse of a perpetual tip-of-the-tongue memory hunt. He understood little of what people said, and all he could utter was the syllable “mem.” Nothing more."

Paul West forced his way through the aphasia. Three years later, he had completed a book, perhaps "the first aphasic memoir" ever.

From The Shadow Factory:

There was a bewildering assortment of false starts and incomplete sentences for the mind only. I no sooner thought of something to say to myself than I forgot it, and I was lucky to get beyond the second or third imagined word....
I formed the habit of forcing language back on itself, beyond even its failure to communicate anything at all, to see what was there. Language, at least as we know it, had ended, and I was left there on countless occasions, with something like a white sheet of dental floss or a carnivorous absence. There was nothing beyond. So I cheered myself up by taking as my starting point the notion that all I had to do was pass the zone of no known language and automatically be speaking English once again. These are mental compensations to be sure, but they serve superbly in times of need.

Labels: , , ,



a really scary thought. and an amazing man... thanks for the post

By Blogger ADS, at 8/22/2007 01:00:00 PM  

I'm glad to know of this book, and that it's possible, at least sometimes, to force language to return

By Blogger Peggy Payne, at 8/27/2007 09:54:00 PM  

Dorianne Laux has an incredible poem on this illness. It's titled "Aphasia", and the word that's on the tip of the afflicted's tongue is "Venezuela".

By Blogger Sharanya Manivannan, at 9/11/2007 08:45:00 PM  

I am so glad to have happened across your post and the mention of his book! I had a stroke last year and have spent some time regaining my language and ability to write fiction again. This gives me tons of hope.

By Blogger Jade, at 9/17/2007 02:34:00 AM  

This is amazing - thank you for sharing this.


By Blogger Baraka, at 10/06/2007 12:09:00 AM  


Is it just me, or, has the blog been shifted, transferred elsewhere. Every time I come here I find that the posts haven't changed.

At least, make an announcement that the blog is temperorily decommissioned, or whatever.

Is it likely to be revived?


By Blogger John, at 1/27/2008 05:09:00 PM  

Hey Guys, What's Wrong - Almost a year now and no new posts.

Is everything allright ?

Really miss this website :-(

By Blogger FreedomFriend, at 6/02/2008 10:48:00 AM  

I am impressed with your post it is really mind blowing

By Blogger Bharat Rajawat, at 6/22/2008 04:22:00 PM  

Hi ,

I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be very good.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘Kitabkhana’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)


By Blogger ray, at 10/14/2008 04:03:00 PM  

I have to agree with others, I just stumbled on this blog and it REALLY is a great blog.

A little disappointed that it hasn't been updated.

By Blogger Sam, at 10/31/2008 08:18:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home Weblog Commenting and Trackback by