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February 12, 2005

'Out of my Head' — by Didier van Cauwelaert


Martin Harris returns home after a short absence to find his wife doesn't know him, another man is living in his house under his name, and the neighbors think he's a crazy person.

Worse, not one single person — family member, colleague at Yale University (where he's a botany professor), or doctor — can vouch for him.

Worse still, the imposter living with his wife has all of Martin's memories, experience, and knowledge, down to the last detail.

In fact, he's a more convincing Martin than Martin himself.

What has happened?

In this slender 164–page novel, translated nicely from the original French by Mark Polizzotti, you find out.

A clue: nothing supernatural, nothing that couldn't happen, given enough time, money, and effort.

After you've finished the book you might enjoy watching "The Conversation," Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 masterwork of conspiracy theory.


Gene Hackman stars and he's simply magnificent.

If you like that movie, you're ready to be mesmerized by Alan J. Pakula's film, "The Parallax View," starring Warren Beatty and released that same year.


These movies take the same point of view as van Cauwelaert, the novel's author: what if someone decided it was important to create a different explanation for something fundamental and seemingly ordinary — what would it take to make it so believable that trying to convince someone of its untruth would become, for all practical purposes, impossible?

February 12, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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OK - so maybe it did take me exactly 1 year and 1 month to act on your recommendation, but it was worth it. Great stuff!

Posted by: Russ | Mar 12, 2006 1:32:38 AM

Both movies are among my favorites. I've not re-viewed Parallax View for a while - the scene where the dam starts draining out is so very startling.

The end of The Conversation is about the most completely devastating ending for a movie as I've ever viewed.

Thank you for the book recommendation!

Posted by: Mattp9 | Feb 12, 2005 8:18:02 PM

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