Oliver Sacks: The Abyss

‘Though one cannot have direct knowledge of one’s own amnesia, there may be ways to infer it: from the expressions on people’s faces when one has repeated something half a dozen times; when one looks down at one’s coffee cup and finds that it is empty; when one looks at one’s diary and sees entries in one’s own handwriting. Lacking memory, lacking direct experiential knowledge, amnesiacs have to make hypotheses and inferences, and they usually make plausible ones. They can infer that they have been doing something, been somewhere, even though they cannot recollect what or where. Yet Clive, rather than making plausible guesses, always came to the conclusion that he had just been "awakened," that he had been "dead." This seemed to me a reflection of the almost instantaneous effacement of perception for Clive