The Notebook

Agota Kristof, Author
Agota Kristof, Author Grove/Atlantic $0 (183p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1024-4
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
With icy dispassion, first novelist Kristof, herself a refugee of war, spins a modern-day fable set in Eastern Europe during WW II. It records, in the form of a notebook written by two small boys, the nightmarish ordeal of twins brought by their mother from the bomb-spattered Big Town to their grandmother's home in Little Town. Grandmother, whom they call the Witch, harbors the boys only because they may prove useful. But they are wilier than she, spying on her through holes in the floor of the attic she can no longer reach, deliberately wounding each other to inure themselves to pain, learning the language of the occupying forces. The officer who has commandeered a room in the house takes them to bed, first making them beat him until the blood runs. Afterwards, there are gifts and food in plenty and, sometimes, a soft mattress in place of the narrow kitchen bench where Grandmother has consigned them. They boggle at nothing: not theft, sodomy or murder, which last, when necessary, they manage with insouciance, having become a pair of soulless charmers, unflinching proof that monsters are not born but made. They are truly spoiled by war and their terrible, unforgettable history tells in microcosm the tale of a whole people warped and destroyed by the lust for power. (October)
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