Welcome to the ‘Literary Blog Hop’, a meme hosted by The Blue Bookcase
for book bloggers who focus on reviewing literary fiction. This weeks’ hop comes with the question:
If you were going off to war (or some other similarly horrific situation) and could only take one book with you, which literary book would you take and why?
This is a very, very interesting question. It has never occurred to me to think what book I’d take if I were ever caught in the middle of a war.
Imagine this: you are living in a country that is known for its’ political unrest. Two opposing parties are constantly trying to overthrow each other, and civilians are the ones getting caught in the cross-fire for victory. It has come to a point where you are not allowed to sit on the fence as far as your beliefs go. You are either the fundamentalist, the religious fanatic, the nationalist or you are a member of the democratic camp who believes in liberty and freedom of speech. No one meets anyone halfway anymore; it’s all or nothing. One morning, you are violently awoken to the sound of sirens blaring through empty streets. You stumble out of bed and rush downstairs to discover that there has been a coup d’état. Faced with the very real threat of a bloody civil division which would bring the entire country to its’ knees, the army has decided to take drastic steps and overthrown the current corrupt government. You and the entire population are now at the mercy of a military regime, that will swiftly and surely weed out all troublemakers from every level of society, including you.
What does a military coup mean? What does it entail? You know full well. Someone calls for everyone to calm down and listen, that there is still time. The soldiers haven’t reached your neighbourhood yet, but they are close, and they will be ransacking every house for evidence of conspiracy against the state or clues that point to affiliations with terrorist organisations. The person in charge is now shouting orders left and right. People rush to try to hide their personal belongings the best they can. You run to your room trying to remember everything that might offend or cause suspicion.
Foreign DVDs, personal journals, posters of Che Guevara; all get torn down, shoved in a box. You hear the shuck-shuck of someone digging a hole in the backyard. It’s already knee-deep, but not deep enough to hold everything. You look out the window and see black smoke billowing from other houses. Some prefer burning to digging.
There is one thing you left to last: the books. Hundreds of them are lined up behind the glass cabinet doors. Voltaire, Spinoza, Freud, Jung, Godwin; all free-thinking, dangerous men that sow seeds in your head and watch it grow from their graves. You have the Marxist Manifesto, but not because you are a Communist. There’s also Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’, not because you are a nefarious sex-freak. Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ gleams like a conspiratorial dagger as does Wilde’s ‘Dorian Grey’. Huysmann’s ‘Against Nature’ is ready to play Russian roulette with your life if it’s ever discovered, and Orwell’s ‘1984’ mocks your hopelessness by merely existing: a mirror to everything that is happening around you. You smash the cabinet and throw all the books out the window, where people are shoving them into the ever-deepening hole. Once buried, the soldiers finally storm the house. They find nothing. Oddly enough, they are content to overlook the ungainly dirt-mound at the back.
You are commanded into single-file, and searched. As the last one, you look around the house one final time. The soldiers pat down your pyjamas and the greatcoat you have on. You get the urge to say a prayer for all the books buried in the dirt, breathless, cold and dead. The soldier suddenly shouts, and cocks his gun at your face. He kicks you in the stomach and makes you kneel with your hands behind you back.
You venture to look up. He waves a bit of tatty paper at the others. Something he found in your pocket. Something he found. What was it? Think. On the way to the market, the guy in the fatigues, the one that handed you that stupid propaganda leaflet. The one with ‘death to the president’ written on it in big, bold red font. You knew you should have thrown it away.
HAHA! Talk about a fantasy man! That was intense. But yeah, if you put yourself in the shoes of someone in the middle of war, you’ll quickly realise it’s not so easy to carry books with you. Books are always deemed dangerous during times like that. Some could even get you into a whole load of trouble. Even execution. Luckily for me, I’ve never had to witness anything as devastating as that in my lifetime, but I have read books that describe the terrors of war; especially the effects it had on children. If I were ever caught up in a battle and had the opportunity to have ONE book and get away with it, I’d probably choose Anne Frank’s Diary
, or do as Anne did and get my hands on a blank journal and a pencil. I’d see it as my duty to record everything that went on around me.
When I think about all the things that one would face in wartime, I’d have to make sure that my chosen book serves my emotional and spiritual needs in times of distress. Great hefty classics like ‘War and Peace’, and ‘Les Miserables’ come to mind, but since they are written from a third-person perspective, I don’t think I’d necessarily connect with them. I’d imagine war to be the kind of thing that is too big and complex to look at from an omniscient place. Everybody would be living their own nightmares, their own problems. Your world would be tightly coiled around you. The circumference of your existence extending only into the next few seconds ahead, maybe not even that. So that’s why I choose Anne Frank, because it’s honest and from a girls perspective (closer to me) and has equal moments of hope and despair.
What would your choice be?