Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Loving Sabotage

by Amélie Nothomb

Far too many books about childhood are sentimental, sweet and politically correct. Not this novel by Amélie Nothomb. The protagonist, a seven-year old girl (“I”, otherwise unnamed), is in fact Amélie herself and the book is a true story. (That’s what the author says in the afterword and I totally believe it. No one can invent all this crazy stuff; one has to live it.) I was reading Loving Sabotage on the train in Italy and was so immersed that I almost missed my stop. Nobody ever wrote about war and first love like that.

Take a crowd of children of various nationalities, enclose them in a restricted space built of concrete, and then let them loose, without supervision. Anyone who thinks the kids will extend the hand of friendship to each other is an idiot.
Later in life, when I had achieved either martyrdom or a Nobel Prize in medicine, I would accept these slightly shopworn honors without too much disappointment. For I could always remind myself that while the noblest part of my existence was behind me, it was mine forever. Till my death, I would be able to awe people with the simple sentence: “During the war, I was a pathfinder in Peking.”

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