The Writer Who Couldn't Read

"In January of 2002," writes the neuroscientist Oliver Sacks, "I received a letter from Howard Engel, a Canadian novelist describing a strange problem." Engel's problem was so strange, I decided to create a short video to let you see his story. Our narrator and animator is San Francisco artist Lev Yilmaz.

On July 31, 2001, Engel woke up, dressed, made breakfast, and then went to the front door to get his newspaper. "I wasn't aware," he says in our NPR interview, "that it was any different from any other morning."

But it was. When he looked at the front page — it was the Toronto Globe and Mail, an English-language journal — the print on the page was unlike anything he had seen before. It looked vaguely "Serbo-Croatian or Korean," or some language he didn't know. Wondering if this was some kind of joke, he went to his bookshelf, pulled out a book he knew was in English, and it too was in the same gibberish.

You can read the rest, listen to the story, or watch the video on NPR.

 

 

Tags: NPR, alexia, brain, language, reading, stroke, writing

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I heard that piece this morning as well and was fascinated both by the phenomenon and by Mr. Sachs's method of adapting to his condition. Truly amazing!

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