12th – 17th July 2015
I picked two classic books to read from Hardy Kettlitz’s wonderful book “Die Hugo-Awards”. One is “Flowers for Algernon”, the other is “Foundation”.
Somehow I always thought Flowers for Algernon was a short story and about someone waking up in a world where everyone is blind. I am mixing some things up here.
This book is about Charley, a thirty-something with low intelligence. He agrees to undergo brain surgery, which should increase his intelligence significantly. It worked on Algernon, a mouse, and he is the first human test subject.
Charley keeps a journal on his development. It starts out in crude English, with all sorts of spelling mistakes, no grammar and simple sentences. Yet it is very understandable. Our brain intuitively can decipher miss-spelled words. That works amazingly well, you can read the text fluidly. Over time, as Charley’s intelligence increases he adds punctuation; at first he applies it wrongly, but quickly improves. Then his sentences become more and more complex, up to the point where his intelligence is high above everyone else’s.
But Charley still has the soul of a twelve year old kid, desperately trying to understand how his world works. He has to develop his emotions and understand the feelings of those around him from scratch. But he manages.
Finally, he reaches the point in his development where he understands the surgery done to him better than anyone else. He realizes, how this improvement will progress.
The book is remarkable. Form is perfectly in line with content. And it is timeless, because the book is focused on Charley and his emotions, and not the technical underpinnings.
I read this book on my trip to Iceland and it was perfect for that. I enjoyed it very much. Lay some flowers on Algernon’s grave for me. I buried him near Alftavatn.