Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: Me and You by Niccolo Ammaniti


Me and You is one of those books that somehow manage, in an almost magical way, to steal a reader’s heart; and that not so much because of their myth, but because of the prose; a prose that sounds tender, almost nostalgic, and which every now and then seems to converse with the silence and the psyches. This is the story of Lorenzo, a fourteen year old boy that doesn’t seem to do well in the world he lives in, but who also tries hard not to show it. And that, because of his mother, whom he deeply loves, and whose aura for some reason reminds him of Morocco. “Life is sad without a sense of humor,” the author says, and that’s exactly the element that’s missing from the boy’s life. Whatever he does he can never feel glad, not even a little bit happy. Apart from his mom the only other person he seems to get on well with is himself. His parents cannot really understand him and feel sorry for him, and that’s why he decides to take a trip to the mountains with some of the popular kids in his class. But of course that trip will never come to be, because he just made it up. His plan is simple: while his parents will feel happy thinking that he’s at last at some faraway place and having fun with some other people, he’ll be hiding in a long forgotten storeroom in the basement of their building. At the beginning everything goes according to plan: He stocks his humble abode with all the supplies he’ll need for his week-long stay and then spends some quality time with himself, playing video games, watching TV and thinking deeply about his life; “Why did I have to be just like the others?” “On my own I was happy, with the others I always had to pretend.” Now, hidden as he is in his beloved basement and isolated from the whole world, yes, he does feel a little bit happy. Life, however, is not about to leave him in peace for long. So, in comes Olivia, his half-sister who has serious drug abuse issues, and who from one moment to the next smashes his fragile, but seemingly secure, world to pieces. Thus the free man becomes the slave; a slave to her needs; her personal slave. Someone has to help her fulfill those needs, and if not Lorenzo, then who? Ammaniti seems to closely observe and analyze the dynamics that develop between these two young souls; dynamics that somehow seem to presage a complete catastrophe. As it seems the one simply cannot stand the other. However, like it or not, they need each other, because if their secrets come to light they both have a lot to lose. So they form an alliance, one that will help them survive their troubles, make them realize some things, and give them the chance to see their selves as they truly are. The fall for the two of them doesn’t seem to be far, but neither is the recovery. Just as Olivia writes to her father: “I have to learn not to hate you,” Lorenzo needs to learn how not to hate living with the other people. A well-written novella that can easily be read in a single sitting, and which has a lot to say to the observant reader. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Claire said...

Sounds intriguing, quite a different 'Room' then. Like you, I enjoy reading books in translation, but also english language books that cross cultures. Anything to broaden the horizon.