One of the many books I wish I had written is Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. It is the story of a mentally impaired man who undergoes trial surgery in the hope that it will improve his intelligence and understanding. The Algernon of the title is a mouse on whom the experiment is first performed. Algernon becomes a dab hand at solving mazes.
The surgery works. The man, Charlie Gordon, becomes highly intelligent. But just as this happens, Algernon goes into decline and Charlie realises that his fate will be the same.
It ought to be a bleak book, but it’s not. It’s human and humane, and to me it is a metaphor for our existence. We are born helpless and dependent; we grow and develop abilities and go out into the world. But, like Charlie, we know what our ultimate outcome is going to be, and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. We just have to accept it, as he does, with as much grace and courage as we can muster.
Daniel Keyes did not publish many books. But Algernon is already over fifty years old and still in print. I admire the book and I admire the writer. Several publishers tried to get him to change the ending to a happier one. But he refused and produced a book of some quality, originality, depth and truth.