A Journey Round My Skull

by: Frigyes Karinthy

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A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy / ISBN 9781590172582 / paperback from New York Review of Books Classics / If you haven't read this one but used to follow my pre-50 Watts blog, get it! (Well, read it no matter what...)

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"Karinthy’s book is, to my mind, a masterpiece. We are inundated now with medical memoirs, both biographical and autobiographical–the entire genre has exploded in the last twenty years. Yet even though the technology may have changed, the human experience has not, and Journey Around My Skull, the first autobiographical description of a journey inside the brain, remains one of the very best.” --Oliver Sacks (from the Introduction)

The distinguished Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy was sitting in a Budapest café, wondering whether to write a long-planned monograph on modern man or a new play, when he was disturbed by the roaring—so loud as to drown out all other noises—of a passing train. Soon it was gone, only to be succeeded by another. And another. Strange, Karinthy thought, it had been years since Budapest had streetcars. Only then did he realize he was suffering from an auditory hallucination of extraordinary intensity.

What in fact Karinthy was suffering from was a brain tumor, not cancerous but hardly benign, though it was only much later—after spells of giddiness, fainting fits, friends remarking that his handwriting had altered, and books going blank before his eyes—that he consulted a doctor and embarked on a series of examinations that would lead to brain surgery. Karinthy’s description of his descent into illness and his observations of his symptoms, thoughts, and feelings, as well as of his friends’ and doctors’ varied responses to his predicament, are exact and engrossing and entirely free of self-pity. A Journey Round My Skull is not only an extraordinary piece of medical testimony, but a powerful work of literature—one that dances brilliantly on the edge of extinction.

Frigyes Karinthy (1887—1938) was a Hungarian author, playwright, poet, journalist, and translator. He was the first proponent of the six degrees of separation concept in his 1929 short story "Chains." Karinthy is known in English for his novellas Voyage to Faremido and Capillaria. Father of Ferenc Karinthy, he remains one Hungary’s most popular writers.