Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Journey Round My Skull

In Volume LV, Number 4 of the New York Review of Books, Oliver Sacks recommends Frigyes Karinthy's memoir, A Journey Round My Skull. Born in 1887 in Budapest, Karinthy was a Hungarian writer well known for his wit when, at the age of 48, he began hearing trains roar through his head. As Sacks writes, "The hallucinatory train noises soon became a fixture in Karinthy's life. He started to hear them regularly, at seven o'clock each evening, whether he was in his favorite cafe or anywhere else." The hallucinations soon became more intense. He saw mirrors move; the ground appeared to roll away beneath him. Sack's lets Karinthy elaborate:

And yet everything, myself included, seemed to have lost its grip on reality. The tables remained in their usual places, two men were just walking across the cafe, and in front of me I saw the familiar water-jug and match-box. yet in some eerie and alarming way they had all become accidental, as if they happened to be where they were purely by chance, and might just as well be anywhere else.

He was soon diagnosed with a brain tumor, and the book goes on to detail a first person account of early 20th century brain surgery--from the perspective of the patient. For more details, read Sack's great article.


Will Schofield said...

I have some cool images of earlier editions of A Journey Round My Skull at my site...which is actually named after this book.

kma said...

Thanks for the link, Will! Great blog.