Seeing Little Pink Men, and Other Neurological Stories
"I remember I was reading Svevo, it was 'The Confessions of Zeno'...And I looked—I was lying in bed and I looked down at the floor and there was a little pink man and a pink ox, and they were about this tall, moving and beautifully articulated.
And they gave me a very good feeling.
I had no fear, no distress, just a feeling of fascination, friendliness, and pleasure...This hallucination was followed by a migraine." Encounters with the bizarre side of the brain, from hallucinations
, are the theme of today's Big Think interview with novelist Siri Hustvedt
According to Hustvedt, the pink man's visitation was a one-time event and the product of a well-established medical phenomenon called "Lilliputian hallucination." Yet it's not her only brush with neurological oddity. The novelist was overcome by a still-unexplained seizure while speaking at a memorial event for her late father in 2006, prompting her recent "neurological memoir" ("The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves") as well as a fascination with the emerging field of neuropsychoanalysis
. By connecting subjective psychological events with the findings of modern brain research, such analysis hopes to lend firmer scientific grounding to Freud's old project: probing the mysteries of the individual mind.
Hustvedt also discusses the life of a writer, which she shares with her husband and fellow novelist Paul Auster (also a former Big Think guest
). "Everyone needs a reader," she says; "I just happen to be married to mine.
" Is this because they read each other's work in the kindest possible light? Not at all: "[We're] very free to be brutal if we feel it's necessary."