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Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology Paperback – 13 May 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; New edition edition (13 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843540347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843540342
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Like some aberrant surgeon, neuropsychologist Paul Broks' debut book, Into the Silent Land peels apart the skull and declines to cauterise. We are plunged straight into the macabre world that Broks inhabits--an infernal and tragic look at people with bits of their brains missing. We meet Michael and Stuart, textbook cases of equal and opposite brain wreckage; Jeanie, who believes herself already dead and Robert's tumour that "reset his personality dials". But this is no travelling freak show. Broks is careful and gentle with his subjects, recognising the humanity in each, which turns Into the Silent Land into a rare work of compelling, cerebral genius.

Broks is as much a part of this book as any of his patients. He turns the glare of his analysis on himself as intensely as he does on any of his other "characters", revealing his own deepest concerns. He also includes professional anecdotes and other interesting phenomena that will be familiar to students of consciousness--phantom limbs, out-of-body experiences, ghosts, emotional response and the social instinct.

He goes on to explore his doubts as to whether neuropsychology can truly attain its stated aim of understanding consciousness. But despite his deft touch and elegant, sparse style, toward the end he begins to leap fretfully from subject to subject before coming to an abrupt end. Nevertheless Into the Silent Land is as unsettling, mentally engaging and unusual a book as you are likely to read for some time. --Dan Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'A beautifully written addition to brain literature… will mesmerise anyone curious about the mass of goo inside our heads' -- John O’Connell, Time Out Book of the Week

'Full of wonders and unsettling new perspectives' -- Independent on Sunday

'Reads as light as a souffle, yet has the resonant depth to haunt you for the rest of your days' -- John McCrone, Guardian

'Rich with disturbing images, eerie characters, wistful philosophical reflection… in terms of sheer prose ability he is a modern master' -- Andrew Marr, Telegraph

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kirsty Hall on 1 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a very intriguing book with a surprisingly wistful and poignant tone. Paul Broks wanders between authorial voices, sometimes he is a clinician describing symptoms, sometimes a man relaying his dreams or furnishing us with examples from his personal life, sometimes a writer of short fictional interludes that explore his theme - yet he always returns to his central question - what is the difference between meat and mind? Is there even such a thing as a mind, or a soul in the midst of all those neurons? Whilst Broks takes the scientific view that it is all explainable meat, his own ego and personality continually seeps out to challenge that pure material view. This conflict between what science thinks it knows about brains and consciousness and how we, as brain users, actually experience consciousness, is at the heart of the book.
Whilst I'm not sure that I always agree with his views, it was refreshing to read a scientific book that explores more than the impersonal third person view. The personal and poetic tone of the book worked well for me, although I found that I also wanted more facts and more resolution. But perhaps that is Brok's point, in the search for the elusive human mind perhaps there can be no true resolution - perhaps, like mystical enlightenment, the experience of being conscious can only really be hinted at and alluded to rather than explained.
This is a book that leaves you with a lot of questions. It left me pondering these questions deeply and eagre to think more about them and it's a book I intend to reread. If you are looking for a straightforward exploration of the current state of knowledge about human consciousness then look elsewhere, but if you are interested in a poetic, poignant philosophical meditation on the mind, then this book is a winner.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 July 2003
Format: Hardcover
Science books written by good writers are rare. Broks, a working neuropsychologist, presents a compelling account of the human brain. His style is poetic, assured and remarkably humble. The cases (phantom limbs, living ghosts, damaged and diseased minds) are expressed with elegance and dignity. There is no sense of spectacle, but rather of insight and speculation into what it means to be human and how our brains support the delicate phenomenon of consciousness. Modern and accessible. This book is set to be a classic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. J. Hard on 19 Oct. 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a student at the UOP and thus a student of Paul Broks, I was intrigued to discover what interests Dr. Broks. His lectures in clinical psycholgy are consistently informative and very interesting/intriguing, showing a passionate insight in the realm of clinical psycholgy.
So to the book....having heard some of these stories in lectures it was great to know that I must have been paying attention!! This book provides such a fascinating insight into the minds of people, their behaviours and problems.
Dr. Broks, in my opinion, is a truly brilliant individual whose work should be viewed by those interested in a career in clinical/nueropsychology and even by those who are just fascinated by human behaviour.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "keithfarnish" on 7 Oct. 2003
Format: Hardcover
If you look into a brain, can you find the soul?
Whilst Paul Broks leaps between case studies, philosophical thoughts and imaginary scenarios, the one thread running through this beguiling, and sometimes upsetting book, is the search for the "self".
This search stops and starts, and often one feels that Broks is trying to impress the reader by making their reading just a little more difficult than it needs to be. Wonderful little stories such as the effects of a butterfly ganglia on a patient are disrupted by technical details that, whilst educational, ensure that the book cannot be read in just a couple of sittings.
And maybe that's the point. Woven into the stories and dialogues are ideas that rarely see the light of day, and make you question your common-sense ideas of the person and the self. These moments need reflection, not continued reading.
For all it's tongue-tied moments, though, Into The Silent Land has a breathtaking two chapter finale that will upset some and enchant others. Only when we are faced with our death do we ever question whether our lives really matter. The two takes, that of a malfunctioning time machine, and the personal, touching tale of Broks' wife's breast cancer, leave us hanging over a pit of uncertainty. And that's how it needs to be : philosophy is very much alive and well, and there is still an awful lot to think about.
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Format: Paperback
I am lucky enough to receive lectures from Broks at the University of Plymouth. Broks has created a very thoughtful and mind twisting reflection on consiousness, what it is idealised to be and more importantly, what it is not. A combination of autobiographical accounts, case studies and fiction have been cleverly intertwined to show the complexity of the subject at hand. Despite this complexity, my understanding of the relationship between body, mind and brain seem more cohesive. Broks may however argue this understanding to be an illusion created by confabulation in the left hemisphere.

A fantastic read. Would strongly recommend to those interested in the possible truth. Paul Broks is an extremely talented neuropsychologist and author.
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