Sam Bissell's Reviews > A Journey Round My Skull

A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy
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it was amazing

I can't remember what drew me to this book because, ordinarily, I wouldn't have bought it, so it must have been a referral from looking up another book. Having finished it at all is a testament to it's being a great book despite the odd title. I believe I chose it because the spiel sounded interesting: "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." I suffer from an auditory ailment known commonly as tinnitus or a ringing in the ears, and I have suffered from it as long as I can remember; in fact, I recall being a little kid and standing in a silent forest and wondering "Is this what silence is? This loud ringing?" So, I bought the book based solely on that comment! Curiously enough for me, it is a non-fiction book, which is a type of book I rarely read, if at all; 90% of the time, I read fiction because I can escape through it.
While it took me a bit to get into the book....I read the first third of the book then put it down because I was unsure of it, read something else but became bored by what I was reading and picked it back up because i was drawn to it. I kept thinking "where is he going with describing his condition, what exactly is happening?" As it turned out, the spot where I left the book was the spot where the book was really getting going. Still though, being drawn into Karinthy's world is difficult to describe because he goes off on tangents of conversations with his friends...and friends who aren't actually in the room with him. So, not only auditory hallucinations but visual as well.
The long and the short of his story is that Karinthy was suffering from a brain tumor and his world had been turned topsy turvy in all aspects...spells of giddiness, fainting fits, friends remarking that his handwriting had altered, and books going blank before his eyes. He eventually was diagnosed and the road to brain surgery, which took him from his home in Budapest, Hungary to Stockholm, Sweden, is the basis for the remainder of the book. Reading about his journey into what can never be described as madness, spells of giddiness, fainting fits, friends remarking that his handwriting had altered, and books going blank before his eyes describes everything that he can about the days leading up to, and after, his brain operation. In fact, the account of the day before and immediate moments after the operation are quite compelling: the fact that he was able to remember what happened within hours after it make for interesting reading on its own!
I'd love to say that I recommend this book to everyone but frankly, I can't see everyone loving it like I did. Part of the reason I was drawn to it is the fact that my own Father died of inoperable brain cancer and I was interested to see what he may have witnessed (however, in my Father's case, he lost his concept of words almost immediately, whereas Karinthy never lost his concept of words). More than that, though, I was drawn to envelop myself in Karinthy's explanations of his symptoms, thoughts, and feelings, as well as of his friends’ and doctors’ varied responses to his predicament. 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".
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Reading Progress

February 24, 2016 – Started Reading
March 14, 2016 – Finished Reading
March 19, 2016 – Shelved

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