BOOK REVIEW / Paperbacks: Lenin's Brain by Tilman Spengler, Penguin pounds 6.99

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A witty recreation of one corner of German medical research, from the Kaiser to the Fuhrer, and within it the real life of the neurologist Oskar Vogt. His obsession is to map the location of genius in the brain, a quest which lures him into deceit and betrayal and ultimately leaves him in jealous custody of Lenin's cerebellum. The essence of Spengler's black comedy is the absurdity of Vogt and his kind, testing their preposterous messianic theories on the gullible rich and the unprotected poor alike, and attracting patronage and huge research grants along the way. We fully expect Vogt to emerge as a born-again Nazi but Spengler, a proper ironist, delicately confounds the assumption.