How I Became Stupid

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How I Became Stupid
Author Martin Page
Original title Comment je suis devenu stupide
Country France
Language French
Publisher Le Dilettante
Publication date
January 2001
Published in English
2004
Pages 224
ISBN 2-84263-040-8
OCLC 319909275

How I Became Stupid (originally Comment je suis devenu stupide) is a philosophical novel by French author Martin Page. It was published by Le Dilettante in 2001.

How I Became Stupid is Page's first novel. The book won the Euroregional schools’ literature prize,[1] an award given by Belgian, Dutch and German students.[2]

Synopsis[edit]

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.

Themes[edit]

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.

Translations[edit]

The book has been translated into 24 languages.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "How I Became Stupid". Meuse-Rhine Journal. 2003-03-23. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  2. ^ Ritzefeld-Gymnasium (2004). "Euregio-Schüler-Literaturpreis 2004 an Martin Page" (in German). Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  3. ^ Lanset.com Community Portal, "HOW I BECAME STUPID What if Ignorance really IS bliss?...", 2005-April. Retrieved on 2009-10-26.