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The Ceiling Outside

UK Publisher: Basic Books
US Publisher: Basic Books

As her mother slips into the fog of dementia, a philosopher grapples with the unbreakable links between our bodies and our sense of self.

Vanessa wakes from a coma having forgotten ten years of her life. Toussaint is haunted by voices. Thomas no longer knows how to answer questions, and Claire, a retired teacher, loses the use of her right hand because of inexplicable pain.

Noga Arikha began studying these patients and their confounding symptoms in order to explore how our physical experiences inform our identities. Soon after she began her work, the question took on unexpected urgency, as Arikha’s own mother began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Weaving together stories of her subjects’ troubles and her mother’s decline, Arikha searches for some meaning in the science she has set out to study. She explores how the self studies itself and how it loses itself, delving into the scientific research that can help us understand how deeply interconnected are our minds and bodies. The result is an unforgettable journey across the ever-shifting boundaries between ourselves and each other.

Credit: Joshua Van Praag
Noga Arikha is a philosopher and historian of ideas. Her first book, Passions and Tempers (Ecco / HarperCollins, 2007; Bompiani, 2009)...