In Search of Memory


I finally got around to watching the last half of In Search of Memory, the enjoyable documentary on Nobel-prize winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel. The title is the same as Kandel’s 2006 book and covers much the same ground, only it makes Kandel’s trip down memory lane real: It takes him back to his childhood’s Vienna, from where he and his Jewish family was driven, to the United States and his youth in Brooklyn, while telling the story of his fascination of memory and the psyche that drove him to become one of the world’s leading neuroscientists.

It’s both a very personal and a very universal story, as all the best stories are, and Kandel himself is really a gift as a central character: He is always laughing his infectious laugh while providing insights into his research in memory (involving large snails and mice with contraptions stuck into their brain; harmless it must be said). Kandel is clearly committed to find out why some memories stick with you your whole life while others fade away. Suddenly, while speaking Yiddish or remembering the Horst Wessel Song, he will begin to cry, not out of pain but simply because old memories and old feelings are awoken. This may make him sound like a squishy borderline case, but I’ve rarely seen anyone come off as so emotionally honest. Recommended.

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