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Myths, Perils and Compensations

Douwe Draaisma

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Does forgetting signal a failing mind? What can be done to ward off forgetfulness? Is there an upside to forgetting?

In his highly praised book The Nostalgia Factory, renowned memory scholar Douwe Draaisma explored the puzzling logic of memory in later life with humor and deep insight. In this compelling new book he turns to the “miracle” of forgetting. Far from being a defect that may indicate Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, Draaisma claims, forgetting is one of memory’s crucial capacities. In fact, forgetting is essential.
Weaving together an engaging array of literary, historical, and scientific sources, the author considers forgetting from every angle. He pierces false clichés and asks important questions: Is a forgotten memory lost forever? What makes a colleague remember an idea but forget that it was yours? Draaisma explores “first memories” of young children, how experiences are translated into memory, the controversies over repression and “recovered” memories, and weird examples of memory dysfunction. He movingly examines the impact on personal memories when a hidden truth comes to light. In a persuasive conclusion the author advocates the undervalued practice of “the art of forgetting”—a set of techniques that assist in erasing memories, thereby preserving valuable relationships and encouraging personal contentment.

Douwe Draaisma is professor of the history of psychology at the University of Groningen and author of several best-selling books on topics relating to memory. He lives in Groningen, Netherlands.

"Draaisma is a lively and skilled writer, sensitive to nuance, irony, and context."—Andrew Scull, Times Literary Supplement

'I know of no better thinker and writer on the wonders of human memory than Douwe Draaisma.' - Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

'Douwe Draaisma's Forgetting is a wonderful study of the often misleading ideas about remembering and forgetting that are a critical part of our understanding of history, politics and psychology. A superb book.' - Israel Rosenfield, author of Freud's Meglomania: A Novel and The Invention of Memory: A New View of the Brain


‘If forgetting emerges as essential to the functioning of memory, and vital to our sense of ourselves, it is also haunted by regret. This delicate but powerful book captures that tension exquisitely.’—James McConnachie, the Sunday Times.

‘Draaisma is always engaging, a keen sense of irony and down-to-earth sensibility lift it above the dryly academic… What emerges through the disparate chapters is a fittingly amorphous but striking depiction of the gaps in our mind, and why what really matters is the stuff in between.’—Michael  Anderson, Burton Mail.

‘Draaisma knows well how to weave science, history and literature into irresistible tales.’—Alison Abott, Nature.

‘Forgetting achieves a remarkable feat, that wondrous thing that we are told is the first duty of poetry; it makes you see anew elements of life so fundamental you long ago lost the inclination to think about them at all.’—Jane Annie, Big Issue.

‘At their best, the essays combine the sensitivity of Oliver Sacks to his patients’ predicaments with the discursive style of Stephen Jay Gould.’—Steven Rose, the Lancet.

‘Forgetting is like witnessing a brilliant, careful reader at work’ – Charles Fernyhough, Literary Review
ISBN: 9780300226423
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
288 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
The Nostalgia Factory

Memory, Time and Ageing

Douwe Draaisma

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