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The Sunday Read: ‘The Forgotten Sense’


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The Sunday Read: ‘The Forgotten Sense’

What can the coronavirus’s strangest symptom teach us about the mysteries of smell?

Produced by Tracy Mumford and Marion Lozano; edited by John Woo; written and introduced by Brooke Jarvis; and narrated by Gabra Zackman.


Jan. 31, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

“Smell is a startling superpower,” writes Brooke Jarvis, the author of today’s Sunday Read. “If you weren’t used to it, it would seem like witchcraft.”

For hundreds of years, smell has been disregarded. Most adults in a 2019 survey ranked it as the least important sense; and in a 2011 survey of young people, the majority said that their sense of smell was less valuable to them than their technological devices.

The coronavirus has precipitated a global reckoning with the sense. Smell, as many have found in the last year, is no big deal until it’s missing.

This story was written by Brooke Jarvis and recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publishers like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

Credit…Stephanie Gonot for The New York Times

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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Parin Behrooz, Carson Leigh Brown, Anna Diamond, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Emma Kehlbeck, Tanya Perez, Kelly Rogers and Margaret Willison. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.

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