My sister-in-law Penni forwarded me an email that tells you what was happening in the year you were born. One fact struck me: Par Lagervist won the Nobel Prize for Literature that year. (I’m not saying what year that was. You can look it up.)
I hadn’t seen that name or thought of my buddy Par for many years, butÂ he wroteÂ a book I liked a lot when I was a kid, Barabbas, a novel about one of the thieves who was crucified next to Christ, according to legend.
This got me thinking about a few books I read as a child that were not intended for children. It’s not that I was precocious, butÂ I had two older sisters who left books lying around, and my parents had lots of books that I’d pick up now and then. Barabbas wasn’t inappropriate in a sexual sense (or not that I remember), but it was dark and serious and spiritual.
“Jean Dutourd’s A Dog’s Head is a wonderful piece of magical realism, reminiscent of Voltaire, Borges and Kafka. With biting wit, Dutourd presents the story of Edmund Du Chaillu, a boy born, to his bourgeois parents’s horror, with the head of a spaniel. Edmund must endure his school-mate’s teasing as well as an urge to carry a newspaper in his mouth. This is the story of his life, trials, and joys as he searches for a normal life of worth and love.” The New YorkerÂ described it as “an excellent joke in the worst possible taste.”
Not exactly kiddie lit, in other words, and it did contain some sexual suggestion, as I recall. I probably didn’t catch all the connections with Voltaire, Borges, and Kafka.
I was fascinated by these books, I think, because I knew I wasn’t understanding them completely. I was intrigued by their sophistication. I’ve never reread either one as an adult, but maybe I will now.
Does this strike a chord? Can you remember reading and liking something as a child that you weren’t supposed to, for whatever reason?