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As her mother slips into the fog of dementia, a philosopher grapples with the unbreakable links between our bodies and our sense of self.
A diabetic woman awakens from a coma having forgotten the last ten years of her life. A Haitian immigrant has nightmares that begin bleeding into his waking hours. A retired teacher loses the use of her right hand due to pain of no known origin.
Noga Arikha began studying these patients and their confounding symptoms in order to explore how our physical experiences inform our identities. Soon after she initiated 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. The result is an unforgettable journey across the ever-shifting boundaries between ourselves and each other.
About the Author
Noga Arikha is a philosopher and historian of ideas. The author of Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours, she is associate fellow of the Warburg Institute and honorary fellow of the Center for the Politics of Feelings, London, and research associate at the Institut Jean Nicod, Paris. She is based in Florence, Italy.
“[An] extraordinary exploration of selfhood, which blends humane sensitivity with acute philosophical insight.”
—Julian Baggini, Wall Street Journal
“[A] gripping exploration of mental illness and consciousness.”
—Claire Messud, Harper's Magazine
"[A] wide-ranging, engaging study that encompasses philosophy, history, medicine, memoir, and science," The Ceiling Outside is "a luminous, intellectually dense meditation on mind." —Kirkus
“Noga Arikha is a poet and a painter with the soul of a scientist. Trust her to guide you through a study of suffering and healing that will leave you humanly richer and, wonder of wonders, at peace with yourself.”—Antonio Damasio, author of Feeling and Knowing
“Noga Arikha is that rare author whose deep knowledge of philosophy, science, and the arts allows her to move deftly from the quandaries of medical diagnosis and the scientific ideas that inform them to the intimate narratives of people afflicted with illnesses that threaten the coherence of that mysterious thing we call ‘a self.’ Astute, compassionate, and brilliant, The Ceiling Outside is finally an adventure story in the bewildering drama of being.”—Siri Hustvedt, author of Memories of the Future
“With grace, rigour, and imagination, Arikha brings together the languages of mind, brain, and embodied human experience to give us a book that fascinates on every page.”—Lisa Appignanesi, author of Mad, Bad and Sad
"A moving journey to the roots of the self, which uniquely combines the author's deep knowledge of its neuropsychological foundations with a touching humanistic sensibility. A must read."—Vittorio Gallese, University of Parma, Italy