Daniel Keyes, author of “Flowers for Algernon” dies at 86

Daniel Keyes, author of “Flowers for Algernon” dies at 86

PanARMENIAN.Net - Daniel Keyes, the author of “Flowers for Algernon” the story of a man with an I.Q. of 68 who temporarily becomes a genius after surgery — a book that inspired the film “Charly,” starring Cliff Robertson — died on Sunday, June 15 at his home in South Florida. He was 86, The New York Times reported.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, his daughter Leslie Keyes said.

The premise underlying Mr. Keyes’s best-known novel struck him while he waited for an elevated train to take him from Brooklyn to New York University in 1945.

“I thought: My education is driving a wedge between me and the people I love,” he wrote in his memoir, “Algernon, Charlie and I” (1999). “And then I wondered: What would happen if it were possible to increase a person’s intelligence?”

After 15 years that thought grew into the novella “Flowers for Algernon,” which was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1959 and won the Hugo Award for best short fiction in 1960.

By 1966 Mr. Keyes had expanded the story into a novel with the same title, which tied for the Nebula Award for best novel that year. The film, for which Mr. Robertson won the Academy Award for best actor, was released in 1968.

“Flowers for Algernon” went on to sell more than five million copies and to become a staple of English classes. It inspired television adaptations, one of which also starred Mr. Robertson, and stage productions, including a musical and a play in Korean.

The story was written as a series of first-person progress reports by Charlie Gordon, a 32-year-old bakery worker with an intellectual disability who is chosen for an experimental operation to increase his intelligence. A white mouse named Algernon had undergone the procedure and had become intelligent enough to solve mazes much faster than Charlie.

Reviewing the book in The New York Times, Eliot Fremont-Smith called the book’s format “a technician’s maze, a collection of nasty little challenges for a writer of fiction.”

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