Books : reviews

A. R. Luria.
The Mind of a Mnemonist.
Harvard. 1968

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 28 February 2002

This is the classic history of S, a man with a seemingly limitless memory -- the psychologists were unable to determine its limits. Give S a table of numbers to memorise, and he could recall them decades later.

We learn that this memory was definitely a mixed blessing, as his powerfully vivid memories could at times overwhelm him. We also learn how his memory was tied in with his synaesthesia (mixing up of the senses), so words and sounds also had shape and colour; this made each memory distinct, unique, but these sharp distinctions also made it difficult for him to form abstractions, to blur unimportant differences.

The story itself is fascinating. Additionally, this book is a classic in its own right. It led on to others like Oliver Sacks to write down the tales of their patients.