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George Langelaan – the Fly

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  • Pages: 10
  • Word count: 2478
  • Category: Fiction

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I have chosen this short story, because it seemed quite an interesting story, and as it has multiple screen adaptations, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to find fifteen websites dealing with it. Unfortunately I was wrong with the second part. The story was very interesting, I enjoyed every minute of reading, although I’m not really into reading. After I finished it, I started to search for websites, and I realised soon, that the only useful one is on Wikipedia. Unfortunately almost all the reviews, references are about the movie remakes, I only found some mentions and comments on the book, so I didn’t have enough material to write this essay. So at last I came up with the idea, that if there are so many websites about the movies, then I should watch them, after that write my own ideas about the story itself and compare it with its screen adaptations, how these directors rethought it and how these movies give back the feeling of reading it. It’s not exactly wanted from me, but I think the aim of it is the same, to read literary works, analyse them, work with them, and write down our ideas. I hope it will be good enough.

The Fly – Short story
This short story was published as an article in the June edition of the Playboy magazine in 1957. I was really surprised, because the Playboy magazine is not famous for its sci-fi short stories. The story begins with a monologue of Francois Delambre, one of the protagonists, when he explains how annoyed he becomes when the telephone starts to ring at the office. It makes him feel like someone came into his room without asking, and this is even worse at home. While explaining this disturbing feeling, Helene, his brother’s wife, calls him. She calls to confess the crime that she did, she killed her husband Andre, with a steam hammer. Her voice is quite distressed, she asks Francois for help, and to call the police. First he doesn’t believe, he neither understands his sister-in-law. Why would she make such a thing? He then called Commissaire Charas, and explained the happenings, and then they went to the factory, where his brother’s house was, and where he was making his experiments. They arrive to the factory, and the investigation begins, as the first part of the story ends. We can see that the story has a dark, gloomy crime story feeling at the beginning. The writer does the build up really well, as the reader always has that thought, that what could happened there, and why would do that Helene, so much questions, and just a hope that they’ll be answered later. This is when the author caught me first, as I love mysteries. Then next time we see Mrs. Delambre, she is at home, waiting for the police and Francois.

This was a bit strange for me, as in the phone she was really nervous, but when they arrived, she was already calm, and talked about the happenings quite undisturbedly. She seemed so calm, that the doctors confirmed that she had been mad, so after just a very few days of prison, she was taken to an asylum. Francois has to take care about her little son Henri. Francois used to visit her on Sundays, and also Charas went there a couple of times in order to get answers for their questions. She would kindly answer any questions, but when they asked why she killed her man, she simply answered “I cannot answer that question”. Later Francois realized that there has to be some connection with the flies as Henri asked him about the flies’ lifespan, and talked about a funny looking fly, which he caught, but had to release, but later had to find again, as he was told by his mother. He then tells Helene, that the fly she was looking for was at his study that morning, and she becomes excited. They go out to talk in the garden about the insect, where he threatens her that if she won’t tell the truth about that night, he will tell the information to the police about that fly.

Francois knew the she is not insane, that’s why he lied to her. At last he succeeded to convince her that it is better to tell him the truth, so she called him back to the house, and gave him a letter, to read it and do what he wants with it. Part IV starts with Helene’s letter. The letter starts with a sentence that this is not a confession because, although she killed her husband, she’s not a murderess; she just carried out his man’s last wish to crush his head and right arm under the steam-hammer. At this part I became really excited, as we finally get to know what could happen in the factory. She then starts to write about the things which leaded to that sad night. Everything began about a year before the happening, when Andre called her to his lab to show her a project, on which he worked that time for the Air Ministry. He told her, the he invented a method of transmitting the matter from one place to another, by disintegrating and integrating its atoms and everything happens just in a fraction of second. He said that his invention would change the whole world; he compared it to the invention of wheel. He said that in the future it would be used instead of other transportation technologies, even for travelling.

After that he held a demonstration for her, when he transmitted an older ash tray. Andre was really excited, and it looked like Helene doesn’t really understand what had happened. When she realized that, she was glad for her man, but added that she would never try it out on herself, because she noticed that the Made in Japan text on the bottom of the ash tray was reversed. Andre was shocked for a moment, and then he started to work on the project again, to repair the machine. For the next few weeks, he almost disappeared, he ate in the lab, and he nearly lived there. One evening he came home with a smiley on his face, when his wife was planning to leave for a bridge party. She cancelled the party, and ordered the maid to prepare a celebration dinner. They celebrated with reintegrated champagne, sent through the teleporting machine. After that he tried it out with a guinea pig, but Helene remembered him, when he had failed to transmit Dandello, their cat whose atoms got lost in the universe.

The guinea pig went through successfully, so they were really glad, the woman asked if she can care about the animal while watching it if it survives a month and her man agreed. At this point I extremely enjoyed the story, full of science fiction scenes. There was one thing, I was thinking about, that however they were like a perfect couple, they loved each other, they were very different when thinking about technology. Helene didn’t like progress; in contrast his husband always looked into future. One day he worked all day on his experiment in the lab, asked everyone to not disturb. Later Henri caught a white headed fly, but her mother ordered him to release it. At the evening Helene went down to the laboratory to see if everything is all right, since he didn’t show up even at the dinner. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer, then he pushed out a typewritten text under the door. He told her that he has troubles, and come back in an hour’s time. He told he couldn’t talk, so every message he gave here was typewritten text. He told her to fetch some milk with rum, because he didn’t have anything all day. When she came back with the milk she got new instructions, to go to the other room to find a film, which should be there.

She was told that this is a matter of life and death, and his husband’s life depends on the help that she can give him. Unfortunately she didn’t find it, and couldn’t call the professor too, who she thought could have helped. Andre still refused to tell what happened in the lab, and then he sent her to bed, to be fresh on the next day. In the morning she went back, and found a typewritten letter, on which he explains that when he transmitted himself through the machine, he didn’t notice a fly which flew into the “disintegrator”, and the only way to change back everything, is to go through with the fly once again, but first they have to find it. If it wouldn’t be possible, they would have to put an end to all this. She went to search for the fly with her son, and also the maids, but there was no progress, so she tried to call the Professor, despite the fact that his man didn’t allow that for her, but the Professor was absent until the end of the week. She went back to Andre, and told about her failure to help him. He then typed her a letter, that he has to be destroyed. He wanted to simply disintegrate himself, but then changed his mind, because somehow, somewhere he would reintegrate, and the people would saw him, so he found a better way, for which he needs her. First she refuses to help him. He tells her the he wouldn’t show his face because it looks terrifying. She suggests going through the machine one more time alone, since it might help somehow, but Andre replies that he had tried it seven times already. For her wished he tries it once again for the last time, but it had even more horrifying consequences.

The carpet slid off his head, and she saw his face. The look was so terrifying, that she fainted. When she woke up, he found a letter again, where his man explained what she could saw before. Before the last experiment his head was the fly’s head, and his right arm a fly’s leg, but after it, Dandello’s lost atoms integrated into his head, and his head was a half cat, half fly head. She felt that was her fault, because she pushed him into the last try, so after that she agreed to everything his husband asked. He explained how to operate the steam-hammer, and lied into it, but forgot to put in his right arm. So she had to put in his arm and make another stroke with the hydraulic press, but she had to hurry, because the night watchman was coming. In the last words of her letter, she added that the rest of the story is known. The following day Francois invited Comissaire Charas for a dinner to show him the letter. When he arrived, we get to know from their conversation, that in the meantime Helene committed suicide, she took Cyanide tablets. He showed the Comissaire the letter after the dinner, and he read it. When he finished reading, he insisted the she might have been quite insane, and then they put the letter in the fire. At the end Francois tells, that that morning he buried a fly, he crushed it between two stones, it was caught in a spider’s web near the place where his brother was buried. He added, that its head was white… all white.

Screen adaptations & other thoughts
So I thought it would be a good idea to write some thoughts about the movies based on this story, since they are somehow the directors’ own ideas about the story itself, how they see the story. There were two “The Fly” movies, the first in 1958 directed by Kurt Neumann, and the second one in 1986 directed by David Cronenberg, and both got great critics. The Fly (1958)

This movie follows the original story very closely, although there are some noticeable differences. The strangest difference for me is that all characters have the same name as in the short story, but little boy Henri has different name in the movie, he is Phillippe. There’s one more, Helene’s confession is not told in a letter, she tells it to Francois and Charas together. At the and there are some scenes added, when the rest of the family is together, and having fun. Despite these, it gives back the mood of the story, and gives a good overview for the story. The Fly (1986)

This is a wider interpretation of the story, the character names, the setting, even the whole situation is changed, a young scientist takes home a journalist from a party, and shows her his world-changing invention, this transmitter of matter. They fall in love, in the meantime he develops his machine to perfection, so it can transmit living beings, like humans and animals. He tries it out on himself too, but the fly gets in the machine, and is somehow absorbed. After some time he starts to change into a big fly monster, and gets aggressive. At the end they manage to kill it. The main theme is the only common thing in the story and this movie, although it’s a great horror sci-fi from the 1980’s.

Overall, it was a really great story, it’s a shame I haven’t read it before, this is a classic sci-fi short story. I like the idea of teleportation, it was always the holy grail of science fiction fans. It’s just said, that after all they didn’t find the fly in time, so Andre has to die.


1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fly_(George_Langelaan) (8.5.2011) This was the best website from all; it has the date and place of publishing, a plot summary, list of adaptations, and at the end honours and references. The plot summary is well written, there’s nothing important left out. 2. http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread60003/pg4 (8.5.2011) This is a website about science fiction topics, it’s not literature related, but there’s a comment related to The Fly, which I found quite funny. 3. http://www.museumstuff.com/learn/topics/George_Langelaan::sub::Short_Stories
(8.5.2011) The text is taken from George Langelaan’s Wikipedia page, there is a short paragraph about his short stories and their screen adaptations. 4. http://www.finebooksmagazine.com/reviews/Adaptations-Stephanie_Harrison (8.5.2011) This is a review about a book which deals with great stories, which were brought to screen, there is also a mention about The Fly. 5. http://www.seniorfitness.com/The_Fly_(George_Langelaan)_link.html (8.5.2011) The plot summary of the book, probably copied from Wikipedia, which is a good summary. 6. http://notfreesf.blogspot.com/2008/12/fly-george-langelaan.html (8.5.2011) This is a very short book review; it is summarized in six words. The author of this post gave 4 point from 5, which also reflects my opinion about the The Fly.

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