Michael Ignatieff: Scar Tissue

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Ly to realize that we have decided to be there too late when the mind of our beloved has been lost forever This seems eually nsatisfactory There is no easy answer and Scar Tissue does not necessarily favor one over another Rather it seeks to demonstrate how we are on an existential level is just as important as what we are on neuroscientific level Therein lies its beauty and power I wonder why it is that I am telling my father s death as a story asks Ignatieff s narrator It s a good estion and one that troubled me and clearly the author too For he raises it again on the death of his mother from Alzheimer s disease There is only one reason to tell you this he then writes and answers in justification What happens can never be anticipated can never be anything other than what it is It seems a pretty lame response Ignatieff s final sentence in the acknowledgements is to insist the book is a work of fiction No resemblance to persons alive or dead is either stated or implied Can one really believe this The story teller is nnamed nor is his brother or wife or either parent although the book is dedicated to AGI and JAGI And the reason for telling the stories of these deaths is simple enough to justify writing a novelThen as if to bless the enterprise Ignatieff introduces a Stephen Hawkins like sage dying of motor neurone disease who declares Believe in the word a phrase repeated in case you missed it by his brother two pages later Go forth and write they seem to sayAt its best the book is poignant and challenging observing small details of the mother s illness and speculating about what elements of her personality and rationality remain locked withinHer speech is like a child s eraser board that wipes out as records each word the cells of her brain disconnected like the beads spilled from a necklace She has been an amateur painter and art becomes her final language when the words have gone This leads into interesting speculation by her philosopher son about the artist De Kooning whose later works were produced while drunk or after had lost his reason He talks of the separation of consciousness and self and The Kings Sister uotes Lear s Methinks I should know you reason failing to recognise its link to memory Now we are getting somewhere you think but Ignatieff spoils such speculation with this nonsense Mother I see him walking through the gates of truth My brother went still I knew he could see himself as she saw him a small child between two ruined columns reachingp into the sky among the flames and smoke of some great destruction a child frozen between the weight of the columns The Cattlemans Ready-Made Family unable to move within the gates of truth The philosophising can be heavy going particularly a lecture given by the narrator that must have had his Rotarian audience comatose in the aisles but the intended message so far as I can discern was to glory in existence not to believe one can overcome illness by will alone nor to be stoical just to be to let it goWhat it s really about is its solipsistic author not really so interested in other members of his family as in satisfying curiosity a I kept forgetting this was a novel thinking it was a memoir and hating the self indulgent voice Then I d remember it was a novel and marvel at how well the voice was done And how much I hated that voice And I wondered why it made a difference to me whether it was a novel or a memoir Because the self awareness of the author who invented the voice was so much tolerable than horrible miserly self indulgence of the voice of the protagonistIt was interesting to think about why that mattered to me as a reader So for that purpose it was good to have read this book It wasneven writingsometimes poignant other times reading like a text book which I found very distracting MemorableThere are several novels with the title Scar Tissue but I doubt whether the ality of the others can match that of Michael Ignatieff s work It was written in 1993 some time before dementia became such a topical issue It s the kind of fiction that the reader contests It must be autobiographical but it isn tTwo brothers different and at odds with each other must come to terms with their mother s dementia and father. Time and tragedy yet still connected as much by pride embarrassed love and sibling rivalry as by the painful ties of family loyalty More than a tal.

To be honest I was looking for a tale of a descent into Alzheimer s the loss of memory the loss of identity the gory days of dis inhibition and a family coming together with that tragedy I was expecting a version of Em and Th I have no memory of this book I must have read it in my sleep It feels inappropriate to even evaluate this book What does it mean to say that it deserves my praise Such an appraisal feels so shallow so superficially inconseuential when I think about the pain so palpably imbued into this novel Scar Tissue is beautiful I wept at its many difficult moments either because I like many other readers have a dear relative whose life I have watched the nmerciful hands of dementia slowly destroy or simply because its meditative prose philosophical perceptiveness and spiritual caress moved me The Year of the Beast unlike most of the literature I typically read We remain creatures of the word the narrator realizes just before his mother s death Only the word can saves only that with which we communicate our desires fears and most intimate pain Believe in the word another character Moe tells the narrator for it is with God it is GodOf course the narrator an introspective man who seeks to live the examined life praised by Socrates and most philosophers does not believe in God and so his inability to lose himself to deliver himself The Billionaires Bidding up and out of the depression into which he descends after the death of his parents to surrender his sense of self entirely to what is rather difficult Death rather than God becomes that which he feels deserves awe and only a resolute openness to one s death it seems will afford the authentic existence that he so desperately seeks To summarize the novel briefly the narrator s mother has severe dementia that transforms her into a person whom he barely knows andltimately kills her His father a hard disillusioned Russian exile and prolific soil scientist also succumbs to his wife s illness not because he also suffers from dementia but because he cannot endure the trauma associated with her descent into painful anonymity In a certain sense dementia destroys the narrator s life as well whereas he once seemed to have found the kind of existence he wanted replete with a tenure track philosophy position a beloved wife and two children it all slips away from him so The Bride In Law uickly as the illness starts to take over his life This is not a happy book It is too true to be joyful Scar Tissue does not describe a woman s descent into Alzheimer s Nor is it a book that offers any kind of real advice about what to do when a loved one falls prey to the vile machinations of dementia In many ways it seeks to answer a simple set ofestions if I know that is with respect to science and medicine with what happens inside the brain with what scar tissue that mass of protein buildup that eradicates one s core consciousness and sense of self looks like on a brain scan will this help me cope as I watch another s life decay before my eyes Does it make the situation any better Most importantly for all its explanatory accounts can science tell me what it is like for my mother my Nana my loved one to be her What it feels like to lose one s mind Science it seems cannot answer that Lhéritier des Drakos uestion In fact we may never know the answer notntil one who does feel the deterioration who self consciously reflects on the self that continues to elude them describes it to s The narrator nods toward this potentiality at the end of the novel when he realizes that he will die his mother s death This room will soon become a prison The doors will be locked I will try the handles I will not be able to escape The faces of my wife my children and my brother will blur decompose and then reform into the image of jailers My own hands my own face my own thoughts will seem alien to me The words I tter will make no sense not even to me I will be dying but with my eyes open How should we be with such a person especially a parent Do we play the role of the dutiful child only to watch an insatiable illness consume our lives as well Scar Tissue testifies to the destructive vulnerability this kind of response leaves s open to Do we remain distant like the narrator s brother on. At the heart of Michael Ignatieff's riveting novel about a woman's descent into Alzheimer's are the tangled threads of a Midwestern family frayed by.

Summary Scar Tissue

S death The younger the protagonist lives near visits and cares for his deteriorating mother obsessively neglecting his wife and children while holding on to his teaching job The effort to nderstand the The Ex Who Hired Her unravelling of his mother s mind and personality runs alongside a personal exploration He is a philosopher he has to make sense of everything that happens rather than living life as hisiet wife recommends His brother a neuropathologist visits infreuently and apparently dispassionately He Testing the Limits understands from xrays position emission topography DNA samples what is happening neurologically and why Our protagonist finds his remote almostncaring while he himself tenderly cares bathes feeds his invalid mother trying to maintain her vestiges of memory and meaning She was an artist but one day inexplicably stops for ever Was this the beginning of her illness and did she does she recognize it for what it isWhen the father dies the home must be sold so that the mother can go into residential care but the son visits daily lengthily continuing to study what is happening to her mentallyIt is only when the brothers are together at the elder s laboratory and then to his patients that his humanity care and efforts to ease his patients suffering become evident His own philosophy surfaces to challenge his philosopher brother s is it ethical to provide a breathing tube for communication when each moment of its se shortens life Painfully effortfully the patient himself opens the philosopher s eyes to what matters most to him consciousness awarenessThe younger brother returns home already now separated from wife and children to examine every detail of his mother s knowingness and awareness Does she attach any meaning to her memories does she know him The outcome of the plot is known from the first chapter yet the narrative is compelling I had planned to pass on the novel to another keen reader after reading but the depth of philosophical discussion means I cannot part with the book The brothers take their mother to the cinema but after the first panning shot she wants to go home she finds it disturbing The older brother explains She sits in the movie theatre of her own mind and she doesn t know what these images are or what her relation to them is supposed to be The son constantly recalls childhood episodes throughout the narrative relating them to his current experiences When he experiments by giving his mother paper and pencil she can still draw proficiently but has it meaning Can there be Art without an artist Buying the novel was worth it even for the discussion of this aspect aloneNot for the lover of fast moving action but this novel leaves scar tissue of its own in its simplest form is the story of a man trying to deal with his mother s descent into mental incapacitation through what I presume is Alzheimer s although that name isn t specifically sed It s the story of his relationship with his father mother brother and wife and family as the disease progresses and his ability or inability to cope with it and them In some ways it s a very straightforward story but at the same time it can strike many chords with the reader There were many moments when it reminded me of my own mother s struggles with it and it made me respect my father and sister s constant caring for her while I who lived across the country only visited once or twice a year It s a very short story but an excellent one 4 stars Writing style OK Not a cheerful subject Didn t feel it had a sufficiently interesting perspective to make it niue or likable Author said he wrote it as a catharsis and it reads that way to me I had only heard of Ignatieff as an academic and politician so I was curious to read his fiction when I stumbled across it The man is a true polymath his writing is excellent and he has a clear consistent voice I preferred the perspective of Still Alice in dealing with the dementia sufferer herself but the son s perspective was touching and made it relatable as I worry about my own mother s memory I also appreciated the academic philosophical musings through the narrator s exploration on the theme of self and stoicism and whether life is worth living in su. E of isolated tragedy Scar Tissue explores the bonds of memory their configuartion in self identity and their relationship to love loyalty and death.

Michael Grant Ignatieff is a Canadian author academic and former politician He was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Leader of the Official Opposition from 2008 until 2011 Known for his work as a historian Ignatieff has held senior academic posts at the University of Cambridge the University of Oxford Harvard University and the University of Toronto