Lemony Snicket and the Dangers of Cranioectomy

Some reflections on one of my favorite works of literature in English, A Series of Unfortunate Events.

This work (consisting of thirteen books), in which the adventures of the orphaned Baudelaire children: Violet, Klaus and Sunny are followed, is so well known that more detailed informations regarding the plot are not needed.

In the Book the Eighth entitled The Hostile Hospital, a criminal pretending to be a doctor, explained to the broad audience gathered in an old fashioned operating theater, how the new surgical “treatment” would be performed:

“[…] a cranioectomy is a procedure in which the patient`s head is removed. Scientists have discovered that many health problems are rooted in the brain, so that the best thing to do with a sick patient is remove it. However, a cranioectomy is as dangerous as it is necessary. There is a chance that Laura V. Bleediotie [in fact Violet] might die while the operation is being performed, but sometimes one must risk accidents in order to cure illness”.

The visitors applauded with excitement after these words, waiting for the „incision”.

Snicket (Daniel Handler), a master of irony, ridicules not only the blind faith of many people in almost everything they have been told by persons in „white coats”. He also laughs at people who believe that standard medical treatment – as such – is unnecessary: “cheerful attitude is a more effective way of fighting illness than painkillers, or a glass of water. So cheer up and enjoy your [heard-shaped] ballon “.

In the crazy world created by Snicket, grown-ups are usually naive to the point of absurdity, close-minded, and shortsighted. They are also often arrogant in a quite funny way, for instance: „children should be seen and not heard. I`m an adult, so it follows that I should be heard and not seen. That`s why I work exclusively over the intercom”. By contrast, some children are far more smart than adults would have ever expected. 13-year-old Klaus pronounced at one occasion: “The central theme of Anna Karenina is that the rural life of moral simplicity, despite its monotony, is a preferable personal narrative to a daring life of impulsive passion, which only leads to a tragedy (Book the Tenth of A Series..: The Slippery Slope).

Nonetheless, the author avoided moralizing in his works.

It would not be easy to determine the genre of A Series. These funny and wisely written books are not only the children, definitely. The language mastery of Snicket ( broadly understood) is, in my opinion, quite comparable even to that of Tolkien. Unfortunately, most of its brilliant wordplay has been omitted in the movie.

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