Karel Capek

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Capek, Karel

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story


When a wealthy man falls victim to incapacitating attacks of vertigo, a young doctor decides that the problem and solution both reside in the patient's head. Gierke is an eccentric widower in his forties who remarries. While honeymooning in Italy with his 17-year-old bride, he collapses after looking down from the heights of a bell tower. Gierke becomes paralyzed by a fear of future attacks of vertigo and eventually stops walking.

Multiple physicians evaluate him without success. Finally a neurologist, Dr. Hugo Spitz, is consulted. He wants to try psychoanalysis but the patient has become extremely introverted. Spitz interviews all Gierke's relatives and even hires private investigators. The doctor devises a theory that Gierke murdered his first wife by pushing her off a mountain and then inherited her fortune.

Spitz reasons that Gierke's vertigo is the result of repressed feelings of fear and guilt. After confronting Gierke with the explanation, Spitz orders his patient to stand. Gierke walks without experiencing any dizziness. Immediately after the doctor exits the house, there is a loud sound and Gierke's dead body, fractured in multiple places from a fall, is found at the bottom of the staircase. Spitz deduces it was suicide.

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