We were delighted to see Colin Grant’s recent TED Talk, which is now online:
Colin Grant has spent a lifetime navigating the emotional landscape between his father’s world and his own. Born in England to Jamaican parents, Grant draws on stories of shared experience within his immigrant community — and reflects on how he found forgiveness for a father who rejected him.
The sight of someone having an epileptic seizure, thrashing about on the ground in public, unsettles and intrigues as it does witnesses to a car crash. We are drawn in and repelled at the same time. For thousands of years epileptics were thought to be cursed, the victims of a sacred disease for which there was no cure.
Our prejudice towards “feeble-minded” epileptics has been complicated by the revelations of a number of exceptional figures who were diagnosed in their lifetime or retrospectively suspected of having the condition – including Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and George Gershwin. Even so epilepsy has generated extraordinary levels of fear and revulsion in the course of history. Abandoned as infants, epileptics have been barred from work, excluded from marriage and locked up with those deemed to be insane.
Christopher, Colin Grant’s brother, wrestled with the impact of this condition on his life. Grant attended him at all his major fits. Alongside Grant’s rendering of epilepsy in medical history and contemporary culture, he chronicles the progression of Christopher’s episodic seizures with pathos and humour, up till his sudden unexpected death in epilepsy at the age of thirty-eight.
In A SMELL OF BURNING, Colin Grant explores the role that epilepsy and epileptics have played, willingly and involuntarily, in the evolution of neurological science. Drawing on primary research, case histories, literature, visual art and film, Grant presents a rich and varied tapestry of the story of epilepsy – a world that has never, until now, been explored fully in a book of popular science.
10 Sep 2014