Published today: ANAESTHESIA: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness by Kate Cole-Adams

‘Cole-Adams presents a lyrical journey through the vital question of what it means to be human.’ Kirkus Reviews
Anaesthesia cover.jpg

You know how it is when you go under. The jab, the countdown, the—
—and then you wake.

This book is about what happens in between.

Until a hundred and seventy years ago many people chose death over the ordeal of surgery. Now hundreds of thousands undergo operations every day. Anaesthesia has made it possible. But how much do we really know about what happens to us on the operating table? Can we hear what’s going on around us? Is pain still pain if we are not awake to feel it, or don’t remember it afterwards? How does the unconscious mind deal with the body’s experience of being cut open and ransacked? And how can we help ourselves through it?

Haunting, lyrical, sometimes shattering, Anaesthesia leavens science with personal experience to bring an intensely human curiosity to the unknowable realm beyond consciousness.

WINNER, Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award, 2017
SHORTLISTED, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, 2018
LONGLISTED, The Stella Prize, 2018

TRADE PAPERBACK | £12.99 | ISBN: 9781925498202

When I began writing this book I did not know that before I was finished I would have a lengthy opportunity to investigate anaesthesia first hand. Nor did I expect to have the chance to stage an unrepeatable experiment of my own, with myself as its subject. That (entirely unscientific) experiment has helped me draw some of my own conclusions about the extraordinary process that we call anaesthesia, and its significance for anyone facing surgery—in particular the importance of the stories we carry in and out of the darkness. What it took me much longer to understand was that what I was exploring was not just the anaesthetic unconscious, its charted and uncharted realms, but the dumb depths of my own unconscious self.
— Kate Cole-Adams in ANAESTHESIA

Read a longer extract from ANAESTHESIA here.

Kate Cole-Adams is a Melbourne journalist who has written for publications including Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Time Magazine  for many years. Her novel Walking to the Moon was published by Quercus (UK). she is available for interview and to write features.


‘A work of  splendid richness and  depth, driven by  a  curiosity so  intense that it hazards at times the extreme boundaries of the sayable.’ Helen Garner

Anaesthesia is not just an account of medical research but a poetic exploration of the mysteries of the human mind.’ Australian

Cole-Adams’s prose is sinuous, at times intoxicating, and witty.’ Sydney Morning Herald

Anaesthesia is mesmerising…This rich and thorough study looks more deeply into questions about the nature of consciousness than many of us who undergo an anaesthetic are likely, or willing,  to ponder.’ Australian Book Review

‘Kate Cole-Adams has been fascinated with our funny non-being during surgery for a long time, and Anaesthesia feels like a book that’s taken over a decade to write, which it is. It  also feels like you’re having a decade’s worth of conversations with a dogged, but generous and resourceful thinker, with someone (she is both a journalist and a novelist) who can crack open a complex idea, and then run with it.’ Readings

‘Comfortably numb. A close-up look at anaesthesia is equal parts social history, popular science and report on experience.’ NZ Listener

‘A troubling, anxious subject that most of us would rather avoid or deflect with dark humour. Cole-Adams has illuminated it in a memorable way. The book is a gift not of oblivion but of awareness.’ Inside Story

‘For the interested reader, it ’s an outline of the science, with an emphasis on the unknown. For the practitioner, it ’s a patient experience, eloquently expressed. There’s much more the anaesthesia than meets the eye, and this book provides a glimpse into the depths.’ The Conversation AU

Anaesthesia is mesmerising…This rich and thorough study looks more deeply into questions about the nature of consciousness than many of us who undergo an anaesthetic are likely, or willing, to ponder.’ Australian Book Review

‘A fascinating mix of historical background, moving—sometimes shocking—surgical stories, interviews with experts and case studies. Surprisingly,  it  seems  relatively  little  is  really known about exactly how effective and affective anaesthetic is. Despite that, I found this book an oddly reassuring study.’ North and South NZ

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Text Publishing is a leading Australian independent publisher, winner of  Small Publisher  of the year 2012, 2013 and  2014. Text  publishes the  finest Australian writers, both old and new. Launched in 2012, the Text Classics list champions Australian greats including Thomas Keneally and Kate Grenville, while Text is also committed to  finding and  publishing the best contemporary writing for an international audience. Text publishes internationally acclaimed authors including Herman Koch, Ruth Ozeki, Yann Martel, Geoff Dyer, Jeanett Winterson, Lionel Shriver, Ali Smith, Julian Assange and J.M. Coetzee in the local market, while selling numerous leading authors to publishers around the world. These include Tim Flannery, Graeme Simsion, Lloyd Jones, Toni Jordan and  Peter Temple. Text is distributed by Turnaround in the UK.