Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review: Me, You by Erri De Luca

Me, You is one of those beautifully written and tender books that talk about the past; a past during which everything seemed to be much simpler than today and where people were more friendly and open-hearted, and the summers smelt of play and love.

It is during a summer that a city boy arrives at an island, where all of a sudden he feels a sense of joy and unlimited freedom overwhelming his youthful being. He was, as he puts it, a city kid, but during the summer he used to be transformed into a savage.

However that’s not exactly true; he did not transform into someone else when he was there, he just became his real self; a self that enjoyed going fishing with his uncle and mysterious Nicola, who fought during WWII in Sarajevo, and who taught him the ways of the sea without ever telling me what to do, and who also told him that from the sea you get what it gives and not what you want. He also liked wandering around the island and meeting people, following his cousin Daniel to the beach and participating in his parties and, every now and then, being naughty.

The summers always made him feel rich, but this one was bound to prove his best ever, since during it he would meet a girl, a bit older than him, that would fill his heart with joy and make him feel for the first time how it is for someone to be in love: “Within Caia was a revelation that could be reached by love”.

Caia was not an ordinary young woman. Most of the time she looked deeply lost in thought, every now and then she seemed to bathe in melancholy, but she always had an aura of wisdom surrounding her being. It was as if life has taken everything away from her and gave her in exchange an almost unnatural, for her age, maturity. Her eyes looked dark, kind of haunted, as if they’ve seen everything there was to see. And most probably it was that darkness in her gaze that he found her most attractive, almost mesmerizing feature. “In her presence my breathing was even; away from her it was agitated.”

What was the best thing that happened during their time together? Sitting one night at an open air cinema, watching For Whom the Bell Tolls, and him, hugging her from behind and smelling her hair.

Well, she couldn’t stay there forever and neither could he. She left first and that broke his heart, even though another girl, of his own age this time, materialized almost out of thin air to claim a piece of what was left inside of him: “She was inviting me to an age that have disappeared from my body and mind,” he says, and he surely couldn’t go back there. Not yet, anyway.

This is a beautiful story about summer, love and an age of innocence, for the magical moments of life which become scarcer as time goes by, for times long gone but never forgotten; a bittersweet novella that somehow manages, in a very direct way, to transmit its deeply humane messages to the reader.

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