Christopher Nolan, an Irish poet and novelist who refused to let cerebral palsy get in the way of his writing, has died. He was 43.
Nolan choked on a piece of food Friday at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, according to a statement from his family carried in the Irish media. The hospital confirmed his death Saturday.
"Christopher Nolan was a gifted writer who attained deserved success and acclaim throughout the world for his work," Irish President Mary McAleese said in a statement, adding that his achievements were "all the more remarkable given his daily battle with cerebral palsy."
Wrote with a 'unicorn stick'Nolan's brain was starved of oxygen during birth, leaving him unable to speak or control his arms or legs. He might have remained isolated from the outside world were it not for a drug, Lioresal, which restored some of his muscle function. His parents nurtured their partially paralyzed son's literary talent.
Using a "unicorn stick" strapped to his forehead to tap the keys of a typewriter, Nolan laboriously wrote out messages and, eventually, poems and books as well.
Bernadette Nolan, Christopher's mother, said her son was 11 when his writing first turned lyrical.
"He wrote of a family visit to a cave that was illuminated by electric lights: He said it was 'a lovely, fairy-like effect to the work of nature,'" she told The Associated Press in a 1987 interview. "It was just that turn of phrase," she said. "I thought, that's unusual for a kid of 11."
The next day Nolan wrote a poem packed with metaphors and peppered with alliteration, which his mother said showed a mind "just like a spin dryer at full speed."
His father Joe read his son poetry and passages from James Joyce's "Ulysses." Christopher took to writing early: He published "Dam-Burst of Dreams," a collection of poetry, at the age of 15. Even then critics compared it to Joyce.
Used words with a 'new-minded freshness'His autobiography, "Under the Eye of the Clock: The Life Story of Christopher Nolan," won the prestigious Whitbread Award in 1988. The third-person account describes Nolan's longing for an education and the liberation of finally being able to type out his feelings. The book was a frank but sometimes hilarious account of his disability: he described his arm flying out to grab a woman's skirt and how his mouth sometimes remained stubbornly shut when he wanted to take communion.
As novelist Margaret Drabble noted, the book was "not merely another tale of brave strife against odds," adding that Nolan was "a writer, a real writer who uses words with an idiosyncratic new-minded freshness."
Nolan disliked sentimental stories about his disability. Although the "Under the Eye of the Clock" drew offers to have his book made into a movie, Nolan refused on the grounds that the production would be a sympathy piece, according to the Irish Independent.
"I want to highlight the creativity within the brain of a cripple and, while not attempting to hide his crippledom, I want instead to filter all sob-storied sentiment from his portrait and dwell upon his life, his laughter, his vision, and his nervous normality," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.