You won‚Äôt believe this.
A friend of mine from Harvard, Bob Glandon, who teaches English at a small college in New Hampshire, happens to live in Conway, NH, near the home of Dan Brown‚Äôs parents. He just wrote to tell me some remarkable news.
Yesterday, he was taking his garbage to the town dump and, as he was throwing his trashbag into the container for recyclable paper, a sheet of paper in the container caught his eye – in particular, two words that stood out clearly: ‚ÄúLangdon‚Äù and ‚ÄúLouvre‚Äù. He looked closer. The sentence read: ‚ÄúLangdon‚Äôs manuscript, while discussing the Louvre‚Äôs extensive collection of goddess art, had made a passing note of this modest pyramid.‚Äù
Having, like the rest of the planet, recently finished reading The Da Vinci Code, Glandon realized immediately that he was looking at a page of the novel, but the piece of paper was not from a book. It was ordinary typing paper; in the margins, there were marks and notes in red ink. As he read on, it became apparent that he was looking at the last page of the novel. He literally couldn‚Äôt believe his eyes: he was staring at an early draft of the the most popular novel of all time.
Was it possible that Dan Brown had disposed of this draft at his parents house? It seemed unlikely, but‚Ä¶
Curiosity got the better of him. He looked back in the container. Sure enough, there were more pages from the manuscript‚Ä¶ but only a few, and they seemed to be in no particular order. There was also a hand-written note on Doubleday stationary, addressed simply to ‚ÄúDan‚Äù and signed by ‚ÄúJanos Kafmanu‚Äù ‚Äì which Bob recognized as the name of the world-renowned Hungarian-Indian editor, who works for Doubleday in Manhattan, where ‚Äì if The Da Vinci Code is any indication – he also eats power lunches: using a clever anagram, Dan Brown had worked his name into the novel as Prof. Langdon‚Äôs editor ‚ÄúJonas Faukman.‚Äù
This hand-written note was very brief. It said: ‚ÄúDan, love the book. You‚Äôre going to be famous! We in the office, though, are firmly convinced that the ending would be stronger, more appealing, if you left the reader guessing about the content of the ‚Äòwisdom of the ages.‚Äô It adds more mystery if it‚Äôs something unspoken and ineffable. OK? ‚Äì Janos Kafmanu‚Äù
My friend was stunned. But he was even more surprised when he finished reading the final page: the ending was different from the one he remembered. The published version had concluded with two memorable sentences: ‚ÄúWith a sudden upwelling of reverence, Robert Langdon fell to his knees. For a moment, he thought he heard a woman‚Äôs voice‚Ä¶ the wisdom of the ages‚Ä¶ whispering up from the chasms of the earth.‚Äù
Up to that point, the manuscript in his hands was almost identical. It had ‚ÄúLangdon‚Äù instead of ‚ÄúRobert Langdon,‚Äù and where the typed words ‚Äúbig cracks‚Äù had been crossed out, the word ‚Äúchasms‚Äù had been written in the margin. These were minor alterations. What floored him was the next line: the original ending of The Da Vinci Code.
‚ÄúAnd the whispering feminine voice was saying, ‚ÄòLangdon, why don‚Äôt you invite that troupe of chanting Frenchmen in togas and slippers to your romantic rendezvous with Sophie at the luxurious Brunelleschi Hotel in Florence‚Ä¶ tres romantique, no? And tell them to bring their orbs.‚Äù
Glandon was taken aback. There was a fierce red line through this passage and, alongside it, a note that said: ‚ÄúI think I‚Äôm going to puke!‚Äù
Later, he took the manuscript to a graphologist (someone who, in the pages of The Da Vinci Code, would probably be called a “handwriting academic”), who told him that, although the evidence was not conclusive, the notes in red were probably written by a woman (apparently the dot over the ‚Äúi‚Äù in ‚Äúthink‚Äù was a tiny circle).
My friend, who teaches English literature, has a theory that seems to have some merit. He thinks that the sudden nausea of the editor at Doubleday inspired Dan Brown in his portrayal of Sophie Neveu‚Äôs reaction to the ‚Äúpagan sex rite‚Äù that she witnesses in her grandfather‚Äôs basement. In fact, he says there‚Äôs a weird parallelism between the final paragraph and the basement scene, especially in the subterranean voices and the pseudo-mystical ellipses: ‚ÄúShe felt herself drifting back‚Ä¶ alighting in the woods outside her grandfather‚Äôs Normandy chateau‚Ä¶ searching the deserted house in confusion‚Ä¶ hearing the voices below her‚Ä¶ and then finding the hidden door.‚Äù In short, the offending passage was cut, but the editor‚Äôs reaction slipped in.
I‚Äôve told Glandon to keep these papers under lock and key. They could be valuable one day.
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