Awakenings (book)

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Front cover: black background, title above author's name, below author's name is quote from Frank Kermode, "This doctor's report... is written in a prose of such beauty that you might well look in vain for its equal among living practitioners of belles lettres."
Front cover of first UK edition,
Duckworth & Co., 1973[1]
AuthorOliver Sacks
CountryUnited States
SubjectNeurology, psychology
GenreCase history
PublisherDuckworth & Co., 1973
Pelican, 1976
Picador, 1991, 2006, 2010
Publication date
1973, revised 1976 and 1991
Pages408 (First Edition)
Preceded byMigraine (1970) 
Followed byA Leg to Stand On (1984) 

Awakenings is a 1973 non-fiction book by Oliver Sacks. It recounts the life histories of those who had been victims of the 1920s encephalitis lethargica epidemic.[2] Sacks chronicles his efforts in the late 1960s to help these patients at the Beth Abraham Hospital (now Beth Abraham Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing) in the Bronx, New York.[3] The treatment used the new drug L-DOPA.

In 1982, Sacks wrote:

I have become much more optimistic than I was when I […] wrote Awakenings, for there has been a significant number of patients who, following the vicissitudes of their first years on L-DOPA, came to do – and still do – extremely well. Such patients have undergone an enduring awakening, and enjoy possibilities of life which had been impossible, unthinkable, before the coming of L-DOPA.[4]

The 1976 edition of the book is dedicated to the memory of Sacks' close friend, poet W. H. Auden, and bears an extract from Auden's 1969 poem The Art of Healing:

Papa would tell me,
'is not a science,
but the intuitive art
of wooing Nature.'

Prior to his death in 1973, Auden wrote, "Have read the book and think it a masterpiece".[5] In 1974 the book won the Hawthornden Prize. [6][7]

In popular culture[edit]

The book inspired a play, two films, a ballet and an opera:


  1. ^ "Awakenings by Sacks, Oliver". 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ MacCarthy, Fiona (5 December 1985), "Travels round a couch", The Times
  3. ^ "Beth Abraham - Centers Health Care Nursing and Rehabilitation". Beth Abraham - Centers Health Care Nursing and Rehabilitation. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  4. ^ Sacks, Oliver, Awakenings, Amazon
  5. ^ Sacks, O. (1976), Awakenings, Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, back cover blurb
  6. ^ "Hawthornden Prize - Book awards - LibraryThing". Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Hawthornden Prize". Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  8. ^ Halliwell, Martin Romantic Science and the Experience of Self: Transatlantic Crosscurrents from William James to Oliver Sacks, Routledge, 1999 Footnote 23
  9. ^ Pinter, Harold (1984). Other Places: Four Plays. New York: Dramatists Play Service. ISBN 978-0-8222-0866-2.
  10. ^ "Rambert Dance Company: The Making of Awakenings". The Ballet Bag. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
  11. ^ Chuck Lavazzi (2022-06-10). "Perchance to dream: Opera Theatre's Awakenings puts a human face on a mysterious pandemic". KDHX. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  12. ^ Joshua Barone (2022-05-25). "An Oliver Sacks Book Becomes an Opera, With Help From Friends". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  13. ^ Cohn, Fred. "Re-Awakenings". Opera News. Retrieved September 3, 2022.
  14. ^ Fenske, Sarah. "Awakenings Opera Premiering In St. Louis Came From Couple's Mutual Inspiration". St. Louis Public Radio. Retrieved May 1, 2022.

External links[edit]

  • Other Places – Listed in "Plays" section of Includes photograph of playbill, production details, and retyped performance review by Alan Jenkins, originally published in The Times Literary Supplement entitled "The Withering of Love", reproduced with permission.