Russian psychologist A. R. Luria presents a compelling portrait of a man’s heroic struggle to regain his mental faculties. A soldier named Zasetsky, wounded in the head at the battle of Smolensk in 1943, suddenly found himself in a frightening world: he could recall his childhood but not his recent past; half his field of vision had been destroyed; he had great difficulty speaking, reading, and writing.
Much of the book consists of excerpts from Zasetsky’s own diaries. Laboriously, he records his memories in order to reestablish his past and to affirm his existence as an intelligent being. Luria’s comments and interpolations provide a valuable distillation of the theory and techniques that guided all of his research. His “digressions” are excellent brief introductions to the topic of brain structure and its relation to higher mental functions.