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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590172582
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 03/11/2008
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 269,912
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

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, L‡ncszemek (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.

Oliver Sacks practices neurology in New York City. His books include Awakenings, Uncle Tungsten, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

Table of Contents

Introduction     vii
The Invisible Train     9
An Amateur Film Show     15
Some Short Weeks and One Long Moment     26
The Ostrich Defends Itself     37
A Meeting by Death-bed     48
The Eyes Give Warning     60
The Ghost Train     73
A Gesture in the Window-Pane     84
In the Sanatorium     97
The Gyulas Hold a Council     108
Return to the Scene of the Crime     121
Visitors     133
Death Tempts Me     144
The Verdict     149
The Place of a Skull     160
The Die is Cast     172
My Prisons     184
Olivecrona     195
Pulsating Stars     204
Avdelning 13     214
Addis Ababa     227
Chrysanthemums     238
An Experiment with Time     249
Half a Dog Running to Trelleborg     259
"Let His Bonds Be Loosened"     269
Crusoe's Island     280

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A Journey Round My Skull 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
arubabookwoman on LibraryThing 7 months ago
In this book, Karinthy, a Hungarian writer, describes his diagnosis of and surgery to remove a brain tumor. Strangely enough, given the subject matter, it is a delightful read. Karinthy's sparkling personality and self-deprecating humor never desert him. He is a talented writer with an original way of saying things, and he never bores.Poking a little fun at the world-reknowned surgeon who will operate on him he says, tongue in cheek: 'I found it a little humiliating that he was not interested in my own views about my condition. He probably regarded me as a layman who had no opinions on such matters, or perhaps, having heard that I was some kind of poet, he was on his guard against the vagaries of an overheated imagination.'In fact, Karinthy tries to keep his imagination in check: 'When I put my questions, I used medical terms....I did not ask her what the cowering, terrified Being that lurked somewhere behind my tumour was so plaintively asking below the threshold of consciousness. I did not ask whether the patient screamed like a wild beast and struggled to escape when they split her skull open, whether her blood and brains came pouring out of the wound or whether at last the victim fainted on the torture rack, gasping for breath, with mouth open and staring eyes. Instead, I questioned her about the operation as if it had been some delicate experiment in physics or a job of repairs by a watchmaker.'(This is about as gorey as the book gets, BTW).As a writer, he came to realize that, 'for the first time in my life, I was to observe not for the sake of recording that personal vision which the artist calls 'truth'...but for the sake of reality, which remains reality even if we have no means of communicating its message. Never had I been so far from a lyrical state of mind as in this, the most subjective phase of my life.
DieFledermaus on LibraryThing 7 months ago
In 1936, Frigyes Karinthy, a famous Hungarian writer and journalist, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Though the tumor was benign, it affected Karinthy¿s vision and mental state and would lead to blindness if untreated. Karinthy was able to schedule an appointment with one of the foremost experts of the day, Dr. Olivecrona, and traveled to Sweden for the surgery. He underwent the procedure with no anaesthetic. It was successful and Karinthy retained his vision, contrary to expectation. A Journey Round My Skull is the story of his experiences. While sometimes Karinthy dwells on random matters and can be a bit distant, the book is engaging and well-written with all sorts of interesting fantastical flourishes.Karinthy starts off by describing the first moment he knew something was off ¿ when he heard a roaring train while seated at a Budapest café. There was no train but Karinthy regularly began to hear the hallucination. Fits of dizziness and vomiting followed with one instance where the world was suddenly off. Several coincidental occurrences ¿ a film he saw about brain surgery, a discussion of tumors with his wife, a psychiatrist ¿ led the narrator to suggest a diagnosis to his doctor. Previous diagnoses had been mild but the symptoms continued. As discussions went on about his condition, Karinthy went to a sanatorium and was finally told he had to have surgery immediately. He describes impressions of Sweden and the doctors which leads up to several chapters of his experiences during the surgery. He also describes his recovery.Karinthy spends time on some things that I felt weren¿t too important ¿ lots of travel time for example ¿ and occasionally doesn¿t give his thoughts on motivations (why the delay in telling his family ¿ certainly there would be reasons, but he doesn¿t give them). The writing is appealing and surprisingly light. Karinthy has imaginative descriptions of his symptoms ¿ the hallucinations, the moment when it seems like everything is wrong. He includes comic moments, like the scene where he describes his visitors to the sanatorium or a council meeting of doctors. There are also some unexpected flights of fancy, like when Karinthy pictures the life of a sanatorium inmate, relates confusing dreams, describes a possible meeting with death, and, when he is being operated on, has a vision of floating out of his body and looking down on the surgery. One chapter also describes how nonfiction can be stranger than fiction and the process that the author used to reassemble his memoirs.
Brasidas on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Who did the photo editing for this particular New York Review Book? My God, it's dreadful, and by far the most off-putting aspect of the book. The book itself is a fascinating autobiographical account by a well-known member of Hungary's pre-WW II literati who discovers that he has a brain tumor. The text itself is an interesting blend of travel writing, medical memoir, cultural observation, and philosophical inquiry. Karinthy is interested in the effect of his tumor on everything, not just himself. There's an interesting passage on the reporting of his surgery in the Budapest newspapers, and the effect it has on a number of his friends and coworkers. He was a popular figure at the time in Hungary (1936) because of both his books and journalism. In fact, because so many physicians were in his circle, he was actually impeded from getting a speedy diagnosis. Karinthy self-diagnosed rather early on. His medical friends, including his wife, when he told them of his conclusions were always 'Oh, come off it!' Today we have MRIs and CT scans. Diagnosis is fairly easy, if not simple. For Karinthy in his day there were no such technologies. The diagnosis was made by inference and it took a long time. The neurologist Oliver Sacks provides the introduction here. For him, a clinician who writes highly readable popular books about the brain, Karinthy's penchant for "long digressions, philosophical and literary" and "a certain amount of fanciful contrivance and extravagance" are faults. My view is otherwise. I see these flights as providing fascinating insight into the mental and emotional status of the writer. I adore Sacks' own books and have read them avidly, but here is a more literary alternative to his staunchly clinical narratives that I find both compelling and page-turning. Especially enjoyable are the glimpses of cafe society before WW II in Budapest, Hungary; the walks Karinthy takes through its streets. Karinthy survived his surgery and lived another two years before dying in 1938 of a stroke. He did not live to see the Anschluss or the German entry into the Sudetenland. He was never to know how the Nazi threat would unfold and all but destroy the continent. Naturally, he was seriously preoccupied; nevertheless, I find his obliviousness to the growing threat of fascism fascinating and it has made me wonder if it wasn't perhaps indicative of a broader mindset. The Spanish Civil War is never mentioned. There is no criticism of the Nazis here, just a sense of eerie foreboding when he finds himself passing through Germany on his way to Stockholm for the surgery (performed by the pioneering Olivecrona). Highly recommended though not for the squeamish or faint of heart.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Frigyes Karinthy (1887-1938) was an influential Hungarian novelist, playwright, poet and journalist. A Journey Round My Skull is a literary account of the development and successful removal of his brain tumor, which occurred near the end of his life. His symptoms begin insidiously, with auditory hallucinations, followed by headaches and vomiting of increasing severity, and loss of visual acuity. Despite these symptoms, which are suggestive of a brain tumor or another process that would cause increased intracranial pressure, the doctors in Budapest ignore his symptoms and fail to reach an accurate diagnosis. He eventually travels to Vienna, where clinicians there eventually reach the correct diagnosis. He undergoes surgery in Stockholm by a brilliant young neurosurgeon who prefers to operate on Europeans while they are awake, to minimize postoperative morbidity. Karinthy's description of the surgery is unforgettable, as he is conscious for all but the last portion of the procedure.I was in awe of the clinicians who were able to accurately diagnose his tumor without the benefit of advanced radiographic tools such as CT or MRI scans, but I was also horrified by the time it took to reach an accurate diagnosis and to remove the tumor, and the ineptitude and brusqueness of most of the clinicians Karinthy encountered - including his own wife, who was a renowned psychiatrist. Also of interest is the varied reactions of his friends and colleagues to his illness, especially when the seriousness of his condition became apparent.There are a number of digressions throughout the book, which were a bit distracting and seemed to contribute little, if anything, to this amazing story. Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable read.
debherter on LibraryThing 7 months ago
A beautifully written narrative of a man's descent into and recovery from the effects of a brain tumor. HIghly recommended.
xieouyang on LibraryThing 7 months ago
This is a very interesting narrative of the author's experience when he was striken by a tumor in his brain, and had to go through surgery to have it removed. Karinthy was (is?) a well known Hungarian writer and newspaperman living in Budapest. One day, normal to him as any other, he heard a very loud train while having his customary coffee in a coffee shop. He soon realized that it was several years since Budapest had streetcars and dismissed the event. However, as it continued to happen in succeeding days, he came to the conclusion that the sounds were coming from within himself. The story takes off from this point, passing through all the medical examinations in Budapest, conversations with friends, wondering what was happening to him, eventually going to Stockholm to have surgery done by a famous Swedish surgeon with the name of Olivecrona. I enjoyed the book because of it is freshly forthwith- unlike some of the pretentious stories written nowadays about life-changing experiences. Karinthy writes in a very matter of fact, clear style. At the end, his appreciation for the small things in life is sincere.
fieldnotes on LibraryThing 7 months ago
In recognition of its thoroughness and accuracy, book store franchises shelve this memoir in the medical section, though it reads like literature. Frigyes Karinthy was a well known and much respected writer and humorist in Budapest in the 1930s when he began to suffer from intensifying auditory hallucinations. These disturbances initiate his progression through the medical establishments of Budapest, Vienna and Stockholm. In parallel, his symptoms accumulate, prompt various misdiagnoses (such as nicotine poisoning), assorted treatments of dubious value (topical applications of a mercury compound) and the gradual realization, on the part of all people concerned, that he has a tumor growing on his brain that will first blind and then kill him within the year if it is not removed.Because of his prominence as a writer, rumor of his ill health travels widely and fast, which gives Karinthy the opportunity to be both self-reflective and socially observant. People from all walks of Hungarian life absorb the news of his affliction in different ways and Karinthy is careful to note how their behavior changes and how it makes him feel¿not in a morose or self-pitying fashion; but matter-of-factly and with wit. There is space for his fear and suffering in the book; but the following excepts typify how he chooses to present it: ¿It got on my nerves, too, that I kept walking with my feet turned in and that, as my sight was bad, I could not see to correct my step and was constantly going into the gutter or knocking against the wall. And that I kept lurking shamefacedly in a corner or hiding for hours in a cold lavatory.¿ And ¿When I put my questions I used medical terms, culled from my reading. I did not ask her what the cowering, terrified Being that lurked somewhere behind my tumor was so plaintively asking me below the threshold of consciousness.¿ Since Karinthy writes this account for serialized publication after his recovery, each of the chapters has a brisk, cohesive thrust and each of them benefits from the equilibrium and joy of someone on the far side of misfortune. Karinthy is also playful and experimental in the composition of his chapters, engaging with dreams and hallucinations and toying with time and simultaneous occurrences. The book never slows and is a fascinating time capsule, wonderfully stuffed by a winning and clever man.
meggyweg on LibraryThing 7 months ago
People interested in medicine and the history of medicine will enjoy this memoir by a middle-aged man who had a benign brain tumor removed in 1936. Karinthy, a Hungarian writer and journalist, was a bit of a celebrity in his native country and it was thanks to his social connections that he was able to be operated on by one of the best brain surgeons in the world. But the operation and Karinthy's recovery are only a small part of the book; he also covers in detail the months leading up to the operation, beginning when he first experienced symptoms. What followed were visits to many different doctors who misdiagnosed him and pooh-poohed his concerns. (Sound familiar?) Karinthy actually diagnosed himself long before his doctors did.The tumor skewed Karinthy's perception and he often hallucinated noises, images and even entire events. The way he writes about these periods, the reader is often unsure as to what is real and what is not. It makes for a somewhat jarring experience, but also helps the reader see just what he was going through.Certainly this isn't for the average reader, but those who like works by people like Oliver Sacks (who wrote the intro to this memoir) will enjoy A Journey Around My Skull.