Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Atmospheric Disturbances

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Atmospheric Disturbances

A Novel

by Rivka Galchen

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2008, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2009, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

Capgras Syndrome

The idea of simulacrum, or impostors, has long been a subject of fascination in fiction, and Capgras syndrome, or variations on its symptoms, often crop up in short stories and novels. Most recently, The Echo Maker by Richard Powers revolves around a character who suffers from Capgras syndrome after he suffers a head injury in a car accident.

While the unreliable narrator of Atmospheric Disturbances is constantly evaluating and analyzing himself, he does so with increasingly suspect reasoning, and never touches on the obvious psychological cause for his belief that his wife has been replaced by an impostor.

Capgras syndrome, or Capgras delusion is a rare disorder in which the afflicted person recognizes all the physical features of another human being, usually a family member or close friend, but believes that the person they're seeing is an identical impostor. The French psychiatrist Jean Marie Joseph Capgras first described the disease in 1923, after treating a Madame M. who believed her entire family had been replaced by impostors. In some cases, the person believes that he is himself a double, or that a limb or other part of their body has been replaced by an identical part.

While it sounds like a paranoid disorder, it can present itself without any other delusional beliefs - the individual is simply at a loss and cannot be convinced. The afflicted individual usually acknowledges the preposterous nature of their perception, but cannot reconcile the person they see with the person they know. As strongly as you know your mother is your mother or your husband is your husband, a person suffering from Capgras knows that the person before them is not the person they're pretending to be. They often believe that the impostor is a benign figure, perhaps even unaware that they are an impostor.

Capgras syndrome is most often diagnosed as a symptom of a larger disorder or condition, such as schizophrenia, dementia, or a head injury. An early hypothesis suggests that it was caused by the same impairment that causes prosopagnosia, a condition that renders a person unable to consciously recognize faces. A patient suffering from prosopagnosia produces an unconscious emotional response to the image of a face, but exhibits no conscious recognition. Thus, it has been hypothesized that Capgras syndrome could result from the opposite of prosopagnosia, as the individual consciously recognizes faces, but exhibits no emotional response, either conscious or subconscious. Scientists have also hypothesized that the syndrome results from a disconnect between the temporal cortex, where faces are recognized, and the limbic system, which supports emotions. Other research suggests that this disconnect must be accompanied by some impairment in reasoning, or some other secondary factor that would transform it from a simple disconnect into a delusion.

Psychoanalysts have interpreted Capgras as a form of displacement in which the patient creates a double for their loved one so that they may be safely rejected when negative feelings or attributes arise, helping him or her to negotiate changes in close relationships without guilt.

Article by Lucia Silva

This article was originally published in July 2008, and has been updated for the April 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Islamic Enlightenment
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Leavers
    The Leavers
    by Lisa Ko
    The day before Deming Guo saw his mother for the last time, she surprised him at school. A navy blue...
  • Book Jacket: Wonderful Feels Like This
    Wonderful Feels Like This
    by Sara Lovestam
    High school is hard; or perhaps, more accurately, growing up and finding oneself is hard. This is ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Scribe of Siena
    by Melodie Winawer

    Equal parts transporting love story, meticulously researched historical fiction, and compelling time-travel narrative.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Chalk Pit

The Chalk Pit:
A Ruth Galloway Mystery

A string of murders takes Ruth underground in the newest book in the series.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T W Don't M A R

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -