Author Name: Olympia Olympia Critikou
Email: [email protected]
Aloneness, Frank’s greatest lifelong fear, has now taken its most frightening form. Diagnosed with the onset of dementia, he has attempted to commit suicide. Being on the autism spectrum, he has a bent for thinking outside the box. Under the supervision of a therapist, he unfolds, in a ‘stream of consciousness’ type of narrative, his philosophical map on life, mostly in allegories and allusions (borrowing several concepts from math and science). He does not shy away from presenting his own explanation of Zeno’s paradox nor from stating his opinion on what God is (as a spectrum of 3 possibilities).
Length of Sample (in words): 1350
In the prologue one finds the full title of the book, which is: “I did not run through Life; Life Ran through me”. It is followed by a quotation from Homer’s Odyssey, “[Zeus’ Order to Hermes:] Hermes, our only messenger, rush and tell the beautifully haired fairy, Calypso, of our command, that back to his homeland Odysseas returns, without the company of gods or of people; alone”.
The main character, in this literary fiction, has attempted to kill himself. Having failed at that, he is now in a mental institution under the supervision of a young therapist, whose mission is to ensure that the would-be self-killer will not try it again after he is released.
It is a ‘stream of consciousness’ type of narrative.
We never hear the voice of the therapist; but, his comments and his personal confessions (for at some point the roles are reversed) are echoed by the main character.
We never find out the name of the main character, nor his gender for that matter, as he declares that he likes to go by many names depending on which aspect/stage of life he is presenting. Let us call him/her Frank (one of the names he uses), for convenience purposes.
Frank attempted to kill himself because, and this is his secret, he is being faced with the onset of dementia. He starts alluding to this secret early on, but he never states it directly. Frank is also on the autism spectrum. Without ever remarking so, he seems to think that the two conditions might bear some similarity in terms of perception of the environment.
Whenever someone who listens (or pretends to listen and do as much as nod) is nearby, Frank talks incessantly. He gives the impression that he wishes to state as much as possible of his philosophical take on significant life-concepts, before it is too late to do so. He is old and quite cultivated; the therapist is young (therefore, inexperienced) and this allows Frank to steer the conversation in the direction he wishes, every time they meet.
In the opening of this narrative, as soon as Frank realizes that someone is sitting in the armchair next to his bed (i.e. that he has a listener or an observer) he starts talking as if to himself, before addressing the therapist directly. ‘Aloneness’ is what he has been dreading all of his life; and he clarifies that aloneness and loneliness are not the same thing. He considers aloneness to be some form of isolation, while, to his way of thinking, loneliness is some form of nostalgia. But, as much as he has suffered because of this sense of aloneness, he never before had realized what aloneness really is. “Because”, he states at some point, “if you have yourself you are not alone”.
Directness about his issues is not Frank’s cup of tea; he uses allegories and allusions.
First off, he rejects any idea of resorting to religion in this recuperation stage. Kierkegaard’s Leap of Faith is not for him, he states.
Frank gave up math and science when he graduated high school. He, now, is fascinated by what he can understand about it. Not only that, but he sees common ground between science/math concepts and everyday life situations. He goes as far to give his own explanation of Zeno’s paradox, and, later on, to talk about prime numbers, happy numbers, perfect numbers, ghosts of departed quantities, the essence of the number zero, objective functions vis-à-vis constraints, ionic bonds, covalent bonds, the past that has no single history but a spectrum of possibilities; and more.
Having studied the ancient Greeks, he also jumps, every once in a while, into the realm of ancient greek myths, in relation of course to what is being said at the time.
He uses the name ‘Odysseas’ and his journey to “Ithaca” (an allusion to Cavafy’s poem), when he wants to describe a segment of his life during which he did mental exercises in imaginary amnesia and in day-dreaming in order to cope with desperation.
He uses the name ‘Frank’, when he talks about the financial markets, and not only. The words ‘the Wall’ and ‘the Fall’ fascinate him and he plays word games with them, such as in the ‘Wall Street’ and in Humpty Dumpty’s ‘Wall’ that he fell from. The tune “Humpty Dumpty” is a recurring theme as it reappears in the story of Gregor (from Kafka’s “the Metamorphosis”) and of Job (the proverbial).
Frank states his persuasion in existentialism by rewriting the “Original Fall” story which he titles “An Apple named Freedom of Choice”. And, of course, he does not shy away from discussing the essence of God; to him God is either a ‘Joker’ (playing games with humans), or the ultimate ‘Ultimate Predator’, or ‘Goodness In The Making’.
He also tells two jokes, which at first glance may appear as ‘fillers’; but, they are not. He uses them in order to proceed later on with an analysis of the concepts of ‘innocence’ and of ‘persecution’.
‘The Sound and the Fury’ play out as in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and as in Faulkner’s novel by the same title, in combination with autism, the lack of innocence, vigilance.
Freedom, marriage, divorce, prayer, hope, defeat, suicide, losing oneself into dementia, and more, get their share of analysis, also.
Aunt Clarissa is an old person in the state of complete dementia. She has no idea who she is and she does not recognize her children as such. Frank states that her dilemma (i.e. of being and not being all at the same time) is worse than Hamlet’s dilemma (to be or not to be). He has also compared her to Schrödinger’s Cat (which is dead and alive).
Eventually Frank presents to the therapist his poems, which he declares (correctly) that they are not poems but were jotted down (a long time before) in the form of poems; they are about love, about forgiveness and about how the two are interactive; also, about sorrow and its beneficial effects.
Getting closer and closer to his current reality, he denounces suicide “because life is good”, and he reconciles with ‘Defeat’ (“our greatest ally in the game of life”, he has said).
Having kept a safe distance from God and Faith, Frank eventually yields and writes a farewell note to the therapist in which the central concept is the Grace of God (presented in a quite visual form albeit in words).
In the epilogue, Frank is alone and he is now addressing the reader. While apologizing for his lack of talent in writing poems, he dares present his closing statement in the form of two poems, because, he says, putting those mid-night dreams into prose would ruin them.
The last poem is titled “Life” and it presents life as a black stallion galloping wild in the dark of the night. Frank, riding the black stallion (without any training for such endeavor), hopes that by some kind of intervention the stallion will be tamed. The intervention appears, in the form of regulated breathing under the direction of a sweet, warm, firm, motherly voice. The revelation, made by the stallion itself, is that the taming is not for the stallion but for the rider.
The book is 150 pages long (25,000 words). It is the first in a planned series of three.
The cover page has the image of a white ray hitting a prism and coming out of it as a spectrum of multicolored rays. Frank feels that his essence is like the white light ray which lives in a prism, and that the multicolored rays are his many selves (which is not to say that he is suffering from a multiple personality disorder; in this respect, he states, he is a very normal person).
This book is the first in a planned series of three.
Experience, Credits and/or Awards:
Two PhD students’ paper reviews, one on Hannah Arendt, and one on Byzantine religious literature
The writer was born and raised in Greece. She studied law at the Athens University. She moved to the States, at the age of 26, and got an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin (major marketing/minor finance) in 1979. In 1989 and 1992 respectively, she was admitted: (a) Louisiana Bar Association, and (b) State Bar of Texas. She practiced law in Houston Texas until 1994; then, she moved back to Greece and is still a practicing attorney.