It’s alive!

by Mary Shelley

There’s no denying the cultural impact of Frankenstein in all kinds of artistic enterprises. I felt like I’ve been surrounded by this book all of my life. How could I ever forget to mention Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein as one of my all-time favorite comedy films? All of the horror genre of the old Universal pictures monster pictures have a warm place in my heart. Every time I see a scientist unleashing his creation to the wider world and then coming to terms with the consequences (I’m looking at you, H. G. Wells) I never fail to see Gene Wilder’s bewildered Doctor Frankenstein screaming “Life!” to a thundering experiment gone terribly right.

And then, the coincidences naturally came to me, like something so prevalent was sure to bring. When I visited Switzerland, I had a set of Swiss places and references in my mind. Sure, Zurich told me tales of Einstein, Vevey of Chaplin, and the Lac Leman impressed me with its incredible wonder, among other discoveries and wintery surprises, but it it was finally in the pages of this book that I discovered where Doctor Victor Frankenstein’s and the Creature’s backdrop truly lay. Surely not Romania, in the creepy wilds of Transylvania, but rather in the beautiful, white landscapes of Switzerland.

More than a scary story of dead tissue terrorizing the living, what a terrific, tragic, contemplative tale about life, love and death. How extremely sad and distressing are the creature’s struggles to be loved as a fellow human, after learning of our cultures and languages. And what of his creator, Doctor Victor Frankenstein, and his coming to terms with the consequences of his terrible experiment? What of the incredible dialogue between him and his, supposedly abominable, creation? Breathtaking, and disturbing, to say the least.

In his book, Permanent Record, Edward Snowden describes the brief times he was a CIA agent working undercover in the USA embassy in Geneva. He recounts the book he was reading at the time to get to know a bit about Geneva. Frankenstein, of course. Then he mentions what the Intelligence Community describes as the Frankenstein Effect. “Situations in which policy decisions intended to advance American interests end up harming them, irreparably.”

Well, what would ensue in Snowden’s life-changing decision — to act as an a whistleblower unveiling another uncontrollable man-made creature running amok — would become, as the very fictional creature it resembled, one for the history books.

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