My last read is “Comment je suis devenu stupide” by Martin Page. In English, that is “How I became stupid”.
The novel’s main character, Antoine, is an introvert intellectual who finds very little or no pleasure at all in the “normal” life that most of the people are living. His interests are very uncommon and start from science, foreign old languages and sociological, ethical and ecological problems of the century.
Antoine lived up to 25 years old constantly feeling as an outlier in the world, and except for a few friends who are as strange or even stranger than he is, he couldn’t find anyone he could resonate with, and share his vision of the world.
In order to solve his problems, he decides to change himself to become more like the other people around him. The first step is to try to become alcoholic. The approach is rather bad, as he wants to become alcoholic in a scientific way, by studying alcohol’s effects on the body, and behavior of the other alcoholic people, and not experimenting directly. The alcoholism attempt fails miserably as his body is incapable of processing alcohol in a better way than getting into a coma. Antoine needs to find another way to hide his issues.
Another attempt is to do a suicide, and again, by studying first and watching the behavior of other suicidal people, this fails. Antoine doesn’t see suicidal as a possible solution for his problem. He sees the suicidal people as pathetic in their tries to solve their issues.
After more time of permanent sadness, Antoine sees a doctor friend and wants to be lobotomized in order to be like the rest of the people. This friend refuses to change him forever, but instead gives him some pills that will make him feel more comfortable.
Antoine spends the next time period by being a normal man: buys normal clothes, gets a normal flat, gets a normal job, meets normal people, breaks up with his strange friends, and starts spending money on useless things and getting the majority’s feelings and opinion over happiness. Being normal however has it’s downsides, as a normal life only gets him to pass the time easier and stop focusing on his existence as a genius.
The character is rescued by his friends who want to save him from the colorless life he is living. Antoine resumes his weird life, focusing on all the things he used to love before and miraculously meets a girl in the park whom resembles him in so many ways that makes him capable of sharing his ideas, life, desires, opinions and feelings. Antoine begins to see the joy in his life as it is, and starts to accept himself for the person he is.
The novel represents the bad condition of the intellectual in a normal world, the feeling of non-integration of the special human genius to the world or the many. Antoine thinks that his problem is himself, and he wants to change himself in order to be able to be happy. He tries different extreme things, including changing his brain to become “normal” in the world’s point of view. Antoine doesn’t realize until very late that he doesn’t have any intrinsic problem, but he is just out of the ordinary, or majority, and that he has to try to be happy with what he is , rather than changing himself to be in a different way. Antoine finds someone who is much more resemblant with himself and can share his life with. The morale of the story is to try to be happy with what you are and find joy in everything you do, as you are.
The novel also attacks the “normal” consumerist behavior of the people and the induced desires by different companies via media, to force people to spend and work for something that they do not really need or do not really want, with money they do not own to appear in some way for some people they do not really care about.
Overall, “How I became stupid” is a simple novel, with a simple idea, presented in a funny way, an easy read, with a clear message.