The book that amazed and disturbed me
– in a way that perhaps calls for a psychoanalysis
By Ana Stanojevi
The Notebook. There is a movie with this title that’s as far away emotionally from the book of the same title as it can get. There’s no real reason I’m mentioning the movie, other than that it just popped into my mind, and I thought: “I hope people won’t disregard the book thinking it’s some lame romantic tear-jerker.”
So: The Notebook by Hungarian writer Agota Kristof. I can’t think of a book that’s as small as this one (in size and number of pages) and as burdensome. Its simplistic, stripped-of-any-emotion, almost mechanical style still echoes in my mind, invoking images of two strangest boys I ever encountered in life or on page.
The boys are brothers, twins. Their dad is simply absent – no explanation, and their sweet mother (the way gentle mothers with tender voices are sweet to little innocent children) brings them to their grandmother (their father’s mother) who is a witch incarnated. She is rough, tough, ugly, scary, dirty, smelly, etc. The mother has no choice; World War II is raving on and she can hardly feed herself. The old woman lives in the country and at least has food.
So the boys, age 5, start growing up in the cruelest sense of the word.
I don’t want to spoil the book for future readers. I won’t tell what’s happening next, but I can only say that the boys’ everyday life and what they make of it, turns out to be the most horrifying account I’ve read in the past 5 years, without even one graphic, horrifying scene.
The book made me:
- Wonder what humans are made of
- Wonder to what extent we can control our lives
- Wonder how much of our brain are we using
- Question morality, good and evil
Most importantly, the book showed me that I have no clear grasp of what’s right and wrong. Usually when I read a book, I’m pretty clear about my feelings towards the characters in the story. But after I finished reading The Notebook I couldn’t wait for my mom, dad, boyfriend and friends to read it so that I could discuss these boys with them.
I wanted answers, and this book is so removed from judging, answering and clarifying that I could only hope to get somewhere through conversation with other readers. The only thing this book shows is the depths of hell in a seemingly normal everyday life, and you can’t even say who the Devil is.
Maybe some of you will wonder how I can be fascinated with such a harsh book, and the only answer I can give is: “Just read it…”
I’m dying to give away the story, but I’ll be strong and keep quiet now, to let you be surprised.
Ana Stanojevic is a writer who studied creative writing (if you can ever really LEARN it) at Syracuse University, New York. She has a book of stories published in her native Serbian language, and she just started writing her blog, Waiting For Nobel.