July 9: Maus

 

The children have now started talking for real. Even Anwen now says »dudi« (Judith), »de« (drink), and »la« (lamp or light).

Angharad has a vocabulary of around 50 words. She knows the names of most parts of the body, objects in the living room, and so on. The other children typically have vocabularies of 10 to 30 words. When Angharad has got started there is no stopping her.

All the children walk more or less without problems. Bryn typically stands over the seat of a chair for a while with both hands in his mouth doing knee bends until he suddenly throws himself into the living room.

Then he virtually falls forwards for about a dozen steps, zigzagging wildly across the floor until finding rescue in someone's arms. Eryl and Delyth watch him with pity.

Their motor function seems more evolved. Eryl squats effortlessly, picks up a brick, gets on his feet once more and passes it to Eve, as if it were the most tedious routine.

In the meantime Delyth sits completely cross-eyed piling bricks on top of each other. She usually makes it to the fourth brick before the spasms take over and she comments on the breakdown with a cheerful and perfectly articulated »Shame!«

Bleddyn looks like a convict who believes he has found an escape route but feels the prison guard's eye on him. He always disappears behind the furniture, and is about as hard to get out as a puppy that knows it is time for its bath.

The children's physical growth is completely absurd. None of them now weigh less than 10 kilograms, and they all measure around 80 centimetres. They are no longer babies. They are children. Their growth rate must now be forty times the average.

Spencer says that Angharad is mentally evolved like a child of 18 months. I think Judith is slightly jealous.

»Of course,« she said. »She's a genius.

How could she be otherwise with Dr. Lyall here to mess around with her genes?« This, we all felt, was the beginning of a story.

»'Mr. and Mrs. – Maus was it?'

'Yes, Maus,' said the little man on the other side of the doctor's desk and looked at his wife as if he expected her to give conformation.

'Well,' the doctor continued. 'I have summoned you here today because last week Mrs. Maus has had a CVS, an examination of the embryonic membrane to test for abnormalities.'

'Is something the matter with Junior?' Mr. Maus asked with some authority.

'I'm afraid there is,' said the doctor. 'There, there, let's not anticipate grief. Ten years ago we would naturally have recommended that the pregnancy be discontinued.

These days we are actually able to correct the defect. All we need is the authorisation of the parents.'

'What is the matter with our little darling?' asked Mrs. Maus.

'Your son, Mrs. Maus,' the doctor said gravely, 'is megalofrenic.'

'That's terrible!' said Mr. Maus. 'We hadn't expected that. What does it mean?'

'The foetus has an abnormally large brain capacity. It will almost certainly develop hyper-intelligence if we don't do something about it now.'

Mrs. Maus looked confused. 'You mean that our son will be very intelligent? But that's a good thing, isn't it?'

The doctor shrugged. 'Under normal circumstances my answer would be yes. I have alway said that a little intelligence can't do any harm. But when the aberration is this large …'

'How does it show?' Mr. Maus asked with concern in his voice.

'Mostly as a lack of ability to communicate with his surroundings. They don't understand him, and he doesn't understand them. Things that are straightforward and simple for normal children can cause these children no end of trouble.'

'I don't think my wife quite understands,' said Mr. Maus.

'Let us say that I were to fall in love with your wife, which God forbid. Since you obviously obstruct my road to happiness, I eradicate you. What do you say to that?'

'You can't just do that,' said Mr. Maus.

'Certainly I can. I buy a pistol and then I shoot you.'

'You can't just do that,' said Mr. Maus. 'One can't just do that.'

'And why not?'

'Because – one can't just do that …'

'You see? Within seconds you have solved a moral dilemma which has baffled philosophers for millenia.'

'My husband is very intelligent,' said mrs. Maus.

Quite so. Your husband has average intelligence.

But your son, Mrs. Maus – if we suppose for a moment that we let him enter the world as he is – would have the greatest problems with that sort of question. He would never stop asking.

And to get answers he would read, which would only confuse him more. He would discover that what is heroic in one culture is criminal in another. Do you follow me? And when he got to school …'

'But I thought that intelligent children did well at school?' asked Mrs. Maus.

'Not the ones that are that intelligent. Such children usually teach themselves to read at the age of three.

Such children have been shown by experience to be very difficult to motivate to take part in a spelling chorus. They lose concentration and aren't able to keep up.'

'But – do they have to, if they are so intelligent?' asked Mrs. Maus.

'Going to school is not only a means of acquiring knowledge. At school children learn to cooperate, first of all.

That's what these children are not at all capable of. They see that they achieve better results when they are not inhibited by others that are less intelligent. It is as a rule impossible to make them understand that it is not the result that counts, but the work that leads up to it.'

'But – such an intelligent child could become an ake, adacemic?' objected Mr. Maus. 'And they earn a lot of money, don't they?'

The doctor shook his head. 'All true science is founded on teamwork. A child of such intelligence can usually only become an artist …'

'Do you think he could become a painter?' asked Mrs. Maus.

'Very likely,' said the doctor, slightly perplexed.

'My wife paints herself,' said Mr. Maus.

'Well, I only copy the great masters,' she said modestly.

'You copy?' asked the doctor with interest. 'Well, that is an art too!'

'That's what I always say to my wife: That is an art too …'

'Who do you copy?'

Mrs. Maus blushed noticably. 'I am very fond of Rembrandt,' she said. 'I have just bought the Night Watch.'

'Bought?'

'Yes. It's sort of squares with little numbers. 1 is yellow, and 2 …'

'Ah,' said the doctor, 'I understand.'

'Perhaps junior can follow in his mother's footsteps, so to speak?' asked Mr. Maus hopefully.

'Well. No. You see, the trouble is that with that level of intelligence your son will be at least fifty years ahead of his time.'

'Oh, well, that's all right, isn't it?' asked Mrs. Maus optimistically.

'Well, for one thing it means that it will probably take him fifty years to sell his first painting. In the meantime he will only be a burden to society.'

'We don't want that, do we, mother?' asked Mr. Maus.

Mrs. Maus did not seem convinced. 'I have read somewhere,' she held stubbornly, 'that it is the geniuses that bring the world forward.'

'Yes,' said the doctor patiently. 'That was once believed to be true.

In reality geniuses only create dichotomies. They insist on something for which the time is not yet ripe.

In the worst instances they recruit followers and create skisms and unrest. As a rule they are not even particularly happy.

You do want your child to be happy, don t you? Look, this is the intelligence I would recommend we adjust your son's to.'

Mr. Maus looked too. 'Isn't it very low?'

'Not at all. Many sociologists and psychologists belong to that level.

Your wife is interested in art, isn't she? Well, with that intelligence he would become a sound art critic. Permanently employed.'

Mr. Maus looked as if he had made a decision. 'We'll take it, won't we, mother? Then he'll be able to criticise your paintings.'

'If the doctor thinks it's for the best …'

'I promise you won't regret.'

'Come on, mother!' said Mr. Maus.'We'll be off then!'

The doctor remained seated for a while behind his desk. A little smile appeared around his mouth as he filed the signed permission for the operation.

He still saw the two people in front of him. How could they ever believe that they could beget a hyperintelligent child?

But that was what he was going to be. Once the doctor had discovered a way of heightening human intelligence it was only a question of gaining access to foetuses.

So far he had succeeded in 1337 cases. 1337 geniuses.

If the parents complained he could always say that the operation had been a failure. He had diagnosed correctly, but there was nothing to be done.

He almost wished that Maus Junior would become a painter. He could imagine his comments about his mother's paint-by-number Rembrandts.

He almost pitied her. But most of all he pitied the foetus that was now destined to restless greatness.

He would be unhappy, confused, and not know who or what he was or what he should do. But the doctor promised himself that he would find out.«

 


 

This text is an extract from the novel "2000".
COPYRIGHT © Erwin Neutzsky-Wulff and Borgen Publishers, 1991
Translated by Robin Wildt Hansen.
All Rights Reserved
First published 1991 by Borgen Publishers.
This text may under no circumstances be resold or redistributed for compensation of any kind, in either printed, electronic, or any other forms, without prior written permission from Borgen Publishers.
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