Article published in:Aproximació a l'altre / An approach to the other: Biografies, semblances i retrats / Biographies, resemblances and portraits
Edited by Enric Balaguer, Maria Jesús Francés and Vicent Vidal
[IVITRA Research in Linguistics and Literature 11] 2015
► pp. 9–16
Un nuevo modelo de discursobiográfico
los casos clínicosliteraturizados de Oliver Sacks
The biographical speech has historically carried out different roles: to serve as a chronicle of memorable facts, to praise monarchs, to use it as an educational or moral tool, etc. In the field of the humanistic medicine, as in the case of the Spanish doctor Gregorio Marañón, the pathography can become a kind of “biological essay” about a historical real character. Nowadays, the neurologist Oliver Sacks has published many books containing real clinical essays which seem to be short stories with some literary features. Sack’s works have been broadly accepted by the Catalan readers, with seven of his books translated. Most of them are an example of this, as, for instance, his best seller Themanwhomistookhiswife for a hatandotherclinical tales. Instead of the bare “entomological” description of the patients, Sacks commits himself to a “neurology of the identity” as a requirement for a humanization of the medical practices where the patient’s physical and psychological issues get combined in a personal biography. One of the precedents which Sacks refers to is Alexander Luria’s work, as a try to conciliate the medical science perspective with the interest in the individual identities. To achieve it, Sacks resorts to figures proper of the narrative literature: metaphors and synesthesias, pieces of intrigue, creation of characters inspired in real patients. His goal is to achieve a mutual influence between science and literature: to understand as a scientist and to communicate like a writer. This procedure allows him to reach different kinds of audience, over the group of specialists, but it does not prevent him to make key contributions to the progress in the field of the neurology by means of the clinical cases presented. The clinic case is an heterodox genre of the practitioners of the classic science (any case study can be suspicious as a consequence of the dubious epistemological value of the “incomplete induction”), but is widely used by the magazines addressed to the medical professionals, where they act as a powerful means to share experiences of professional interest. Sacks’ goal, often described specifically in the prefaces of his works, is to foster this hybrid genre made by medical investigation and literary writing in order to get the interest of the readers and as a contribution to the progress of the neurological knowledge. The success of this formula in the Catalan editorial market fosters the renewal of the biographical portrait in this cultural field.
Published online: 02 December 2015