“The Humans” by Matt Haig
(First publication: 2013 / This edition: Canongate Books 2014)
Taken during a break by the pool side.
Tragedy is just comedy that hasn’t come to fruition.
One day we will laugh at this. We will laugh at everything. (p.271)
This is the first book by Matt Haig that I’ve read—and it’s one of my most favorite books (of the favorite-ests). I’ve written about him before in this review of his book “Reasons to Stay Alive”. He’s a humorous and aspirational writer, and one of my favorite modern writers. He’s suffered (and recovered) from depression, and has a lot of insightful thoughts about “life”. I feel that I can relate to him in a lot of ways and every time I read one of his books, I just wish I could sit down for a coffee and have a chat with him.
If you’ve read “Reasons to Stay Alive”, you will see a lot of similarities in this book—it’s like a reflection of this book in a way. I guess it would be like if you were watching “The Humans” as a movie, “Reasons to Stay Alive” would be like watching “The Humans” with a commentary on by Matt Haig himself in the background. “Reasons to Stay Alive” is non-fiction while “The Humans” is fiction.
The story is about Professor Andrew Martin whose body is taken over by an alien. The alien has been sent on a mission, but in order to do so, he has taken over the professor’s life and has to deal with his “human-ness”: his wife and their almost-estranged love, his teenage-rebellious son, his work and mathematical discoveries, and his dog—the only living being on Earth that he seems to like. By trying to blend in and adapt to “being human”, he learns what it means to love, to care, and to “live”.
Now, at first I thought I was in for a “silly” book. I mean, the plot itself sounds like a Disney or Pixar cartoon—so not in this “classic literature”-love phase/roll I’m going through right now. And even I know my brief synopsis of it is so diluted and does the book no justice at all—it’s such an eye-opening and insightful read; I learned so much from reading this—about myself and about life. It’s like I took a break from actually being human (as ridiculous as that sounds) and observe as an outsider—a lot of it might seem like “common sense”, but Matt Haig puts everything in a perspective that makes you appreciate life, love, and people you love so much more.
I would highly recommend this to everyone. It’s a fun light read, but you will get a lot from it. It is one of the most influential books in my life, as Matt Haig is one of the most influential persons to me. It’s now one of my go-to books when I’m feeling down or just need to take a breather from life in order to appreciate life.
Here are a few of my favorite lines from the book:
(I’m putting down a lot of quotes on “love” but the story covers other aspects too)
[…] prime-of-life love. The kind that could only be possible in someone who was going to die at some point in the future, and also someone who had lived enough to know that loving and being loved back was a hard thing to get right, but when you managed it you could see forever.
Two mirrors, opposite and facing each other at perfectly parallel angles, viewing themselves through the other, the view as deep as infinity.
Yes, that was what love was for. (p.209)
Love was a way to live forever in a single moment, and it was also a way to see yourself as you had never actually seen yourself, and made you realize—having done so—that this view was a more meaningful one that any of your previous self-perceptions and self-deceptions. (p.209)
And I knew the point of love right then.
The point of love was to help you survive.
The point was also to forget meaning. To stop looking and start living. The meaning was to hold the hand of someone you cared about and to live inside the present. Past and future were myths. The past was just the present that had died and the future would never exist anyway, because by the time we got to it the future would have turned into the present. The present was all there was. (p.221)
That’s what starts to happen, when you know it is possible for you to feel pain you have no control over. You become vulnerable. Because the possibility of pain is where love stems from. (p.165)
The humans are an arrogant species, defined by violence and greed. they have taken their home planet, the only one they currently have access to, and placed it on the road to destruction. They have created a world of divisions and categories and have continually failed to see the similarities between themselves. They have developed technology at a rate too fast for human psychology to keep up with, and yet they still pursue advancement for advancement’s sake, and for the pursuit of the money and fame they all crave so much. (p.46)
Don’t aim for perfection. Evolution, and life, only happen through mistakes. (p.272)
Your life will have 25,000 days in it. Make sure you remember some of them. (p.271)
EXTRA. One of my favorite quotes by Matt Haig, but it’s in “Reasons to Stay Alive”: click here and smile 🙂