How I Became Stupid
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|Original title||Comment je suis devenu stupide|
Published in English
The protagonist is a young adult named Antoine who grows miserable due to the tragic empathy that his profound intelligence causes him to feel, despite his universal intellectual curiosity. At 25 years old, Antoine is a junior lecturer at the University of Paris V Rene-Descartes. He is an Aramaic scholar with a degree in biology and a master's degree in film on the works of Sam Peckinpah and Frank Capra.
Throughout the novel, Antoine attempts many different methods of dumbing himself down, so that his mind can be at peace. He tries to become an alcoholic (which fails after he is rushed to the hospital after drinking half a beer), briefly considers suicide, and eventually takes Happyzac pills prescribed to him by Dr. Edgar Vaporski, his close friend and Antoine's doctor of choice since early childhood.
As he tries to integrate himself into what he considers the uncaring and superficial crowd of society, he forces himself to obsess over his appearance by exercising at the gym, although he also eats at McDonald's and tempts himself with other capitalist merchandise made by unethical means, which loses him his four closest friends as he changes his entire lifestyle. As a result of his spending, Antoine's bank account becomes overdrawn, which leads him to make an unproductive visit to his local unemployment office, where eventually Raphi, a childhood friend, who was convinced to head a stockbroking firm because of Antoine's advice, offers the impecunious Antoine a job as a stockbroker.
When Antoine's coffee falls on his computer one day, he accidentally earns the company millions of dollars and instantly became a millionaire. As a result, he indulges in vices and debauchery. Antoine goes to a dating service, where the receptionist talks about the science of love and how seemingly objective and superficial it really is.
Eventually, Antoine gets a visit from Danny Brilliant's premature ghost who, after invading his refrigerator, tells him that his life is in peril. Soon after that, Antoine is kidnapped and subjected to a movie containing the great thinkers, inventors and works of art. His captors, his four best friends, return Antoine to his old self. A young woman, Clemence, approaches him in the park in a way that implies that it was meant to be (she introduces herself as if she were reciting from a script). The story ends when she leads a blind-sighted Antoine into the middle of a road and pushes him off the road right before a car comes by, thus saving his life and being in his life forever.
One of the most important themes in the book is the relationship between intelligence and happiness. It confronts and questions the age-old sayings, "Ignorance is Bliss" and "What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You." While Antoine is still sympathetic to the ailments of the human condition and international problems, he is more realistic, and less idealistic, about his role in the grand scheme of things. The novel raises the question: what is the source of happiness? Truth and individuality, or ignorance and conformity.
Many philosophies and bits of wisdom are featured in this book. Gustave Flaubert is perhaps quoted most importantly, in the context of Danny Brilliant singing along to karaoke, as deriding the efforts of conclusion-hungry minds, eager for answers. The metaphor Flaubert draws is one of an intellectual wanting to count the grains of sand on a beach, when he/she should really just walk along the water. Descartes, Madame de Staël, Nietzsche, Pascal and even Kirk Douglas were all referenced in some manner.
The book has been translated into 24 languages.
- Catalan (2002): Com em vaig convertir en un estúpid, translator Josep M. Espinàs, publisher Edicions La Campana. ISBN 978-84-95616-15-9
- Croatian (2002): Kako sam postao glup, translator Vesna Lisičić, publisher Fidas. ISBN 953-6561-23-9
- Czech (2003): Jak jsem se stal hlupákem, translator Alan Beguivin, publisher Mladá fronta. ISBN 80-204-1040-6 (2003, hardcover), ISBN 80-204-1777-X (2006)
- Dutch (2003): Hoe ik dom geworden ben, translator Edu Borger, publisher Wereldbibliotheek. ISBN 90-284-2011-8
- English (2004): How I Became Stupid, translator Adriana Hunter, publisher Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-200495-2
- Estonian (2002): Kuidas ma lolliks hakkasin, translator Kaja Riesen, publisher Olion. ISBN 9985-66-288-1
- Finnish (2003): Kuinka minusta tuli tyhmä, translator Anu Partanen, publisher Like. ISBN 952-471-130-3 (2003, hardcover) / ISBN 952-471-334-9 (2004, paperback)
- Georgian (2010:) როგორ გავხდი იდიოტი (rogor gavkhdi idioti), translator - Maia Katsanashvili, publisher - Bakur Sulakauri publishing, ISBN 978-9941151651
- German (2002): Antoine oder die Idiotie, translator Moshe Kahn, publisher Wagenbach. ISBN 978-3-8031-3167-6 (2002, hardcover) / ISBN 978-3-8031-2489-0 (2004, paperback) / ISBN 978-3-8031-2516-3 (2005, paperback)
- Greek (2004): Πώς έγινα βλάκας, translator Yannis Strigkos, publisher ΑΣΤΑΡΤΗ. ISBN 960-263-108-2 (2004, paperback)
- Hebrew (2007): איך נעשיתי טיפש, translator Avigail Burstein, publisher Zemorah-Bitan.
- Hungarian (2002): Elhülyülésem története, translator Takács M. József, publisher Ulpius-ház. ISBN 963-9348-95-3
- Italian (2002): Come sono diventato stupido, translator Roberto Rossi, publisher Garzanti Libri. ISBN 978-88-11-66504-5 (2002) / ISBN 978-88-11-67844-1 (2005)
- Korean (2005): Na-neun eotteoh-ge babo-ga doe-eotna (나는 어떻게 바보가 되었나), translator Yong Gyeong-sik (용경식), publisher Jakga Jeongsin (작가정신). ISBN 978-89-7288-246-6
- Lithuanian (2006): Kaip aš tapau kvailiu, translator Gražina Strigockytė, publisher Alma littera. ISBN 9955-08-988-1
- Polish (2002): Jak zostałem głupcem, translator Krystyna Szeżyńska-Maćkowiak, publisher Muza. ISBN 83-7319-083-X
- Portuguese (2005): Como me tornei estúpido. ISBN 972-41-3485-7 (2003, translator Carlos Sousa de Almeida, publisher Asa) / ISBN 85-325-1837-0 (2005, translator Carlos Nougè, publisher Rocco)
- Romanian (2004): M-am hotarat sa devin prost, translator Adriana Gliga, publisher Humanitas. ISBN 973-50-0615-4 (2004) / ISBN 973-50-1373-8 (2006) / ISBN 978-973-50-1539-8 (2007)
- Russian (2006): Kak ya stal idiotom (Как я стал идиотом), translator Irina Kuznetsova, publisher Inostranka. ISBN 5-94145-360-4
- Slovakian (2001): Ako som osprostel, publisher Sofa. ISBN 978-80-89033-06-5
- Slovenian (2009): Kako sem postal neumen, translator Katja Zakrajšek, publisher Sanje. ISBN 978-961-6653-98-5, ISBN 978-961-92533-0-4
- Spanish (2002): Cómo me convertí en un estúpido, ranslator Javier Albiñana Sérain, publisher Tusquets Editores. ISBN 978-84-8310-218-3
- Swedish (2003): Om konsten att bli dum, translator Ulf Gyllenhak, publisher Isell & Jinert. ISBN 91-85063-04-5
- Azerbaijan(2013): Mən necə idiot oldum, translator Ilqar Fahmi, publisher "Qanun" publishing house. ISBN 978-9952-26-534-7
- Publisher's catalog (French)
- "How I Became Stupid". Meuse-Rhine Journal. 2003-03-23. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- Ritzefeld-Gymnasium (2004). "Euregio-Schüler-Literaturpreis 2004 an Martin Page" (in German). Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- Lanset.com Community Portal, "HOW I BECAME STUPID What if Ignorance really IS bliss?...", 2005-April. Retrieved on 2009-10-26.