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The Ceiling Outside

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781529385489

Price: £10.99

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‘Astute, compassionate, and brilliant’ Siri Hustvedt

Vanessa wakes from a coma having forgotten ten years of her life.

Toussaint is haunted by voices.

Claire loses the use of her hand because of an inexplicable pain.

Noga Arikha began studying these patients to explore how our physical experiences inform our identities. The question took on unexpected urgency when Arikha’s own mother began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Weaving together stories of her subjects’ troubles and her mother’s decline, Arikha searches for meaning in the science she set out to study. The result is an unforgettable journey across the ever-shifting boundaries between ourselves and each other.

As her mother slips into the fog of dementia, philosopher Noga Arikha grapples with the unbreakable links between our bodies and our sense of self.

‘Fascinates on every page’ Lisa Appignanesi, author of Mad, Bad and Sad

‘Will leave you humanly richer and, wonder of wonders, at peace with yourself’ Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes’ Error


Arikha is a poet and a painter with the soul of a scientist. Trust her to guide you through a study of suffering and healing that will leave you humanly richer and, wonder of wonders, at peace with yourself
Antonio Damasio, David Dornsife Chair in Neuroscience, University of Southern California, and author of Descartes' Error
A moving journey to the roots of the self, which uniquely combines the author's deep knowledge of its neuropsychological foundations with a touching humanistic sensibility. A must read
Vittorio Gallese, Professor of Psychobiology at the University of Parma, Italy
Like Oliver Sacks and the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, Arikha structures her exploration of these larger questions around individual cases. Each is fascinating not only in itself, but also as an opportunity for Arikha to expand on the historical and social understandings of particular ailments, and of the evolution of those understandings
Harper's Magazine
A luminous, intellectually dense meditation on mind
Kirkus Reviews
Arikha has a gift for making scientific technicalities digestible by baking them into irresistible narratives and wise reflections . . . a formidable scholar of medicine. As an impartial observer, she regards the history of the human sciences as inclusive, across both time and place, and it is refreshing to hear about traditional philosophical topics such as the mind-body problem or the distinction between the normal and the pathological from non-Western and premodern perspectives
American Scholar
With grace, rigour and imagination, Arikha brings together the languages of mind, brain, and embodied human experience to give us a book that fascinates on every page
Lisa Appignanesi, author of MAD, BAD AND SAD
Arikha is that rare author whose deep knowledge of philosophy, science, and the arts allows her to move deftly from the quandaries of medical diagnosis and the scientific ideas that inform them to the intimate narratives of people afflicted with illnesses that threaten the coherence of that mysterious thing we call "a self." Astute, compassionate, and brilliant, The Ceiling Outside is finally an adventure story in the bewildering drama of being
Siri Hustvedt, bestselling author of MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE