Douwe Draaisma

The Nostalgia Factory

Memory, time and ageing

You can no longer call to mind the name of a man you have known for thirty years. You walk into a room and forget what you came for. What was the name of that famous film you’ve watched so often? These are common experiences, and as we grow older we tend to worry more and more about such lapses. Is our memory letting us down? Are these the early signs of dementia, the beginning of the end?

Douwe Draaisma is a renowned specialist on memory, particularly since the publication of his Why Life Speeds Up as You Get Older. Here in The Nostalgia Factory he focuses on memory in later life. Draaisma writes beautifully and evocatively, explaining neurological phenomena in ways that prompt recognition. His writing is reminiscent of Oliver Sacks and it is no coincidence that the book includes a long interview with the famous British author and neurologist, a rather melancholy conversation about Sacks’ parents and his childhood. As he approached sixty, Sacks was overwhelmed by a flood of early memories, formerly lost to him; these became the basis for his autobiography.

Draaisma draws upon other examples to illustrate this ‘reminiscence effect’, described as early as in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, where old Mr Lorry suddenly starts to dwell on his youth. Clearly our memories can sometimes reawaken perceptions of events apparently long forgotten.

The Nostalgia Factory will greatly encourage and reassure those who worry about forgetfulness, a failing which actually occurs just as often in the young and rarely presages dementia. Draaisma even dismantles the stubborn myth that mental gymnastics can improve the memory. He presents convincing evidence in favour of the ageing mind, arguing that we should value the nostalgia that survives as recollection, value the intangible nature of past events, and the consolation of razor-sharp reminiscencing.

  • Demolishes many persistent fables and reassures those who may start to doubt themselves as they grow older
  • Unusual mix of science and literature

Relying at least as much on novels and memoirs as on specialist literature, Draaisma shows himself to be remarkably skilled at exploring human nature, as his earlier books have already demonstrated.

NRC Handelsblad

Draaisma has an unrivalled gift for connecting empirical science with the world of everyday experience.



Douwe Draaisma

Douwe Draaisma (b. 1953) is a Dutch psychologist, university professor and the author of many books on human memory. His best-known book, on autobiographical memory, translated into twenty-five languages, is Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older (2001). He has also written Disturbances of the Mind

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De heimweefabriek. Geheugen, tijd & ouderdom (2008). Non-fiction, 142 pages.
Words: 37,000
Copies sold: 50,000

With notes


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