Inside the World of Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet’s autobiography “Born on a Blue Day” fell into my hands unexpectedly. I was reading “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (by Mark Haddon), which tells a stunning story about a boy with Asperger’s syndrome, when my friend came to introduce me Tammet’s book. And I’m really glad that he did. The book was first published as long ago as in 2006, so you might have already read it, but if you have not, it is absolutely worth your time, because in some way Daniel’s story applies to everyone: it is about overcoming obstacles and dealing with life.

Daniel Tammet has an extraordinary mind: he sees numbers as shapes and colours, and can multiply ‘82 x 82 x 82 x 82’ within seconds in his head. Besides extraordinary mathematical abilities, he is a talented language learner. Daniel can learn an entire language within one week. He is fluent in many languages including Lithuanian, Spanish and Romanian, but the most interesting thing is that he has even created his own language – Mänti, named after the Finnish word mänty. You can find more about Mänti in Daniel’s blog.

Daniel’s extraordinary abilities are partly due to Savant syndrome, which is a rare form of Asperger’s. Living with autism does present challenges, but despite this Daniel succeeds to live independently and enjoy life. Reading this book made me see the world with fresh eyes and understand the relativity of perceptual experiences. In his TED-talk from 2011, Daniel states that in his books he “explores the nature of perception and how different kinds of perceiving create different kinds of knowing and understanding.” I couldn't have said it better myself, each of us “sees” the world in a unique way and I believe learning about other people’s experiences can enhance our understanding of the world as a whole.

As a linguistics student, I was also fascinated by Daniel’s attitude toward language, as the book contains many interesting facts about the history of language and relationship between language and thought. In Daniel’s own words:

“The relationship I have with a language is quite an aesthetic one, …. Sometimes I will read a sentence in a book over and over again, because of way the words make me feel inside.”