Oates, Joyce Carol "The Man Without a Shadow" - 2016
I am one of the biggest Joyce Carol Oates fans. I have not read all of her books, yet, but whenever I come across a new one, I just have to read it. So, I was glad to find this on the "new" bookshelf in my library and had to borrow it right away.
Like all her other stories, this is a highly interesting, fascinating one, one that captivates you from the first page and doesn't release you until the last page has been turned. We get to learn the characters all so well, their thoughts, their hopes, their ambitions, their wishes for the future. Only, that for one of them in this novel there is no real future, it always ends after seven minutes. One of the two main characters suffers from amnesia, the other one is a scientist who studies his brain in particular and thereby hopes to find more insight into the human brain in general.
All of JCO's novels have a definitive distinction, she never repeats her subject, every book can stand on its own and gives so much insight into the topic. The words in her stories flow together in a natural way, even her scientific parts make sense to someone who is not scientific at all, like me. Her characters are complex, not easy, not flawless at all, just interesting to watch. While following the stories of Margot and Elihu, we can try to understand what memory means, why we remember certain parts of our lives and not others and what it would mean if all that was taken from us.
After reading this book, I only have one question, the same I ask myself every time I read one of JCO's novels: When is she finally going to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature?
From the back cover: "In 1965, a young research scientist named Margot Sharpe is introduced to Elihu Hoopes, an attractive, charismatic amnesiac whose short-term memory has been devastated by a brief illness.
Charming, mysterious, and deeply lonely, Eli is tortured by his condition. Trapped eternally in the present moment, he is also haunted by a fragmented memory from his childhood: the disturbing image of an unknown girl’s body, floating under the surface of a lake.
Inspired and moved by her exceptional patient, Margot dedicates her professional life to him and, in so doing, establishes for herself an exceptional career in the rapidly expanding field of neuroscience.
But where is the line between scientific endeavor and personal obsession? And how to interpret the wishes of a person who is trapped outside time?
Atmospheric and unsettling, The Man Without a Shadow is a poignant exploration of loneliness, ethics, passion, aging, and memory - intricately, ambitiously structured and made both vivid and unnerving by Oates’s eye for detail and her searing insight into the human psyche."
Two books are mentioned in the novel that talk about the same subject:
Luria, Alexander R. "The Man with a Shattered World. The History of a Brain Wound" (Goodreads)
Luria, Alexander "The Mind of a Mnenomist. A Little Book About a Vast Memory" (Goodreads)