Matthew's Enigma

Matthew's Enigma

A Father's Portrait of His Autistic Son
Matei Calinescu, edited by Translated by Angela Jianu. Matei Calinescu
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/04/2009
ISBN: 978-0-253-00291-4
Bookmark and Share

Available through various retailers


Matthew's Enigma unfolds the complex relationship between a father, who is a Romanian emigré and distinguished university professor, and his son, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 7 years old. Matei Calinescu's desire to understand Matthew—his namesake—is the theme of this moving memoir. Calinescu's determined search for the meaning of his son's enigmatic illness continues even after Matthew's sudden death at age 25. Reminiscences about Matthew's life are interwoven with observations of his behavior and reflections on the difficulties that autistic persons encounter in social situations. Drawing from journals that he kept, beginning with Matthew's birth, as well as from his experience as a scholar of literature and philosophy and a reader of psychologists' and brain scientists' writings about autism, Calinescu has composed an inspiring and lyrical essay about love and illness, memory and forgetfulness, sociability and alienation.

Author Bio

Matei Calinescu is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Indiana University Bloomington. His books include Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism and Rereading. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Angela Jianu has translated The Hooligan's Return by Norman Manea from Romanian.


“Unfolding the complex relationship between a father and his autistic son, this moving memoir interweaves personal experiences with reflections on the difficulties that autistic persons encounter in social situations, composing an inspiring and lyrical essay about love and illness, memory and forgetfulness, sociability and alienation.”

“Great insight from a father's perspective on living with an autistic child, especially the parts of the book that describe how this father served as a mentor for his autistic son. They had a great relationship.”
 — Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures

“Matthew was a gentle and kind young man who left this world too early. Matthew's Enigma highlights the various stages of his life from birth to his early death at age 25 and provides thoughtful commentary and insights into the various aspects of autism.”
 — Cathy Pratt, Director, Indiana Resource Center for Autism

“Through both real-time diary entries and passages written with the wisdom of time, [Calinescu] creates a compelling picture. . . . Among the best-written portraits of a son with autism and a father's desire to understand him.”
 — Deborah Barnbaum, author of The Ethics of Autism

“[Matthew's Enigma ] is at once the journal of a father following closely the development of his son with autism, from childhood to a youth brutally interrupted by death, and a detailed study of the literature on autism, full of personal insights. . . . This extraordinary book is a profound meditation on the fragility and the enigma of human existence itself.”
 — Norman Manea, author of On Clowns: The Dictator and the Artist

“Calinescu paints an intimate and poignant portrait . . . one of the most interesting narratives about autism to date.”
 — Library Journal

“Beyond the appeal to parents, teachers and caregivers of special needs individuals, Calinescu's story offers vivid lessons in acceptance: 'All people are different, and the degree of difference does not matter.'March 9, 2009”
 — PW Annex Reviews

“. . . Calinescu’s memoir . . . offers crisp insights into the autistic mind, while demonstrating the real gifts of parenthood: the chance to know another human well, to accept your differences and, on good days, to glory in them.May 13, 2009”
 — Nuvo

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents

1. Pages from an Old Diary
2. "Anyone's Death Is a Great Tragedy"
3. Further Pages from the Old Diary
4. Mater Dolorosa
5. Pages from the Notebook with Black Covers (1985)
6. The Story of an Autistic Missionary
7. Further Pages from the Notebook with Black Covers (1985<N>1986)
8. Reading and Play
9. On the Autistic Personality—A Stray Note
10. About Compassion
11. Ages 16 to 20, from Diary about Matthew (1993<N>1997)
12. Matthew's Sense of Humor
13. At 20: The Ages of Matthew, from Diary about Matthew (1997)
14. When Matthew Was 25...
15. Julian's Visit
16. Questions without an Answer
Postscript (2004)
Works Cited

Related Titles