|You Will Not have My Hate by Antoine Leiris|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Grief and loss in the aftermath of a mass shooting are stunningly conveyed by journalist Antoine Leiris. A story of death, love, hope and defiance that will stay with the reader long after they've finished.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 144||Date: October 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
At approximately 21:40 on Friday 13th November 2015, three gunmen entered the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. A concert was taking place that evening – American rock band Eagles of Death Metal were performing to around 1,500 of their fans. The gunmen opened fire on the crowd for 20 minutes – the gunfire indiscriminate and merciless. 89 people were killed that evening, which, accompanied by attacks at cafés and a football ground in Paris that same evening, combined to form a death toll of 130. The shock, grief and outrage that followed was staggering – but one open letter posted on Facebook became renowned for the dignity, hope and bravery it showed in the face of such attacks. Written by Antoine Leiris, a man left a widower and single parent by the attacks, the letter went as follows:
On Friday evening, you stole the life on an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I don't know who you are and I don't want to know, you are dead souls. If this God for whom you kill blindly made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife is a wound in his heart. So no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. You want it, but to respond to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You would like me to be scared, for me to look at my fellow citizens with a suspicious eye, for me to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You have lost. I saw her this morning. At last, after nights and days of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left on Friday evening, as beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her more than 12 years ago. Of course, I am devastated with grief, I grant you this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will be with us every day and we will find each other in heaven with free souls which you will never have. Us two, my son and I, we will be stronger than every army in the world. I cannot waste any more time on you as I must go back to (my son) who has just woken up from his sleep. He is only just 17 months old, he is going to eat his snack like every other day, then we are going to play like every other day and all his life this little boy will be happy and free. Because you will never have his hatred either.
You Will Not Have My Hate is Leiris's extraordinary tale of his grief and shock in the days immediately following the attack. It isn't an easy read, but the sheer bravery and humanity that is packed into every sentence makes it a worthwhile and ultimately uplifting few hours.
Journalist Antoine Leiris was happily married to make-up artist Helene Muyal-Leiris, and the two were bringing up their son Melvil together. He was at home baby-sitting when the attackers struck - his wife out enjoying the concert with friends. You Will Not Have My Hate describes those dark hours of searching through the streets and hospitals of Paris - the desperation of learning that his wife was amongst the dead, and the challenge of trying to deal with grief when an entire city is mourning alongside you. Essentially there are three characters here - author Antoine, son Melvil and wife Helene. Despite her tragic death forming the main thrust of the narrative, Helene is nevertheless extremely present here - her vibrant spirit leaves a clear mark on the reader, and helps them to imagine even a fraction of the loss that Leiris feels.
The attitude of the author is what makes this a truly extraordinary read – he knows that his grief will be long lasting, and knows that the gunmen did, in one brief moment, destroy his world. But his attitude towards those attackers, and towards the future of his son, is truly remarkable. The bravery, hope and sheer dignity of this man burn through the grief and the loss – it's a stirring testament to both him as a person and the person his late wife helped him to be. His words are filled with strength and intelligence too – there's some beautifully poetic prose here, and that combined with the emotion led to me having a good weep at this one – it's cruel and unfair that such a happy family should be ripped apart at random, but the product of Leiris's grief is something truly beautiful and long lasting. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading I recommend H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald – another book that combines a study of grief with stunning, transcendent prose.
You can read more book reviews or buy You Will Not have My Hate by Antoine Leiris at Amazon.com.
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