Let Me Not Be Mad by A K Benjamin
(Bodley Head, 2019)

Let Me Not Be Mad

by A K Benjamin

Let Me Not Be Mad is an immersive, virtuosic and provocative investigation of madness, love and self-destruction that defies categorisation.

A consulting room with two people in it. One of them is talking, the other is listening. Both of them need help.

A K Benjamin has lived an improbable number of lives – as a screenwriter, a contemplative monk, a counsellor for addicts, a support-worker for gang-members and ultimately, for ten years, as a clinical neuropsychologist. In all of them, he has found himself drawn to extreme behaviour.

His book begins as a series of superbly realised clinical encounters with anonymised patients, some recently traumatised, some on the brink of mental collapse, others already in freefall. But with each encounter, it becomes increasingly and disturbingly apparent that what we are reading is not really about the patients at all: it is about the author’s own fevered descent into mental illness and mania as he confronts his traumatic past.

Layered with twists and revelations, Let Me Not Be Mad challenges the boundary between fact and fiction to provide a thrilling drama of self-diagnosis: a hall of mirrors blazing with energy, intensity, humour and emotion. And though shockingly personal, it also reveals something deep and dark in western culture that is driving millions of us to distraction and collapse.

Reviews

A perfectly extraordinary – not to mention extraordinarily perfect – drama that centres about the fraught, ferocious, hilarious, dangerous and explosive relationships that develop between therapist and patient. Like a tense Hitchockian psychodrama, the ticking bomb of the psychiatrist's own sanity makes itself heard on every page. In unravelling the minds of others, the mind of the analyst can often unravel too. I have rarely read a more haunting, enthralling and perfectly written account of a descent into madness. An important, profound and fascinating book.”
- Stephen Fry
Let Me Not be Mad is stunning: clever, troubling, restless, honest, dishonest; one of the best portraits of madness and clinical practice I’ve read. [It’s so rare for clinicians to be able to understand encounters with their patients with this kind of depth, richness and psychoanalytic acuity - let alone the glare he turns on himself.] I read it in two sittings. Extraordinary.”
- Olivia Laing, author of Crudo and The Lonely City
We cannot tell our stories and be present at the same time,' says AK Benjamin. Who then, brilliantly, alarmingly, with cunning and self-lacerating honesty, proceeds to dismantle his own proposition. Let Me Not Be Mad offers a spin of shifting, swerving, measured or suicidal reports, confessions and confabulations. The doctor is sick, but his intelligence, his scope of reference, his damaged sagacity could save us all. A lung-shredding march against darkness.”
- Ian Sinclair, author of The Last London
Dazzling… Provocative…. Insanity has often been depicted in literature as a descent – a one-way ticket to a mental underground. But in considering the subject while he is himself in the midst of madness, honestly portraying and displaying it with great humour and skill, Benjamin achieves a miraculous feat of psychiatric mountaineering.”
- The Guardian
Benjamin is kinetic company. The doctor is sick... fuses an alarming, increasingly claustrophobic psychodrama with irresistibly sharp cultural commentary... A wild, genre-defying, wake-up call of a book.”
- The Observer
[A] maddening, saddening, slow-burn belter of a book”
- The Spectator