Merci Mirela pour ta maturité, ton courage, ton sérieux , ta compréhension de la vie. Tu vas beaucoup me manquer. Valérie
I choose to start this post with these very beautiful words addressed to me by my mentor (while in France last year) and handwritten in the first pages of a book I received from her as a goodbye gift. I have just finished reading that book today and thus, want to express my thanks and warm feelings (I could have sent a mail as I haven’t sent one since January, I know, but I have some kind of a problem: this strange inability of expressing my feelings towards the persons I look up to or care the most or love.
Out of the shelter by David Lodge is the book in question. I love Lodge’s writing. Fell in love after reading Changing Places as a member of a literary reading group (weekly meetings with people keen on reading, sharing ideas, commenting literature and expressing themselves in English). I insisted, as I loved him too much, and read Therapy next. I found Therapy a little bit too light for my tastes and not as witty as Changing Places. However, love was still there.
My mentor and I read a lot (apart from both being English teachers, under the same zodiacal sign, working together, very critical and ironic and so on), so that we shared & exchanged books and opinions, got really enthusiast when we discovered good literary stories, and so on. So that’s why she offered me a book of an author I like and read.
Out of the shelter is a serious book even if it has at its core a young boy, in his teens, ‘speaking’ about his first far-away from home adventure- experience. It’s, as Lodge puts it in the Afterword, as some kind of a ‘bildungsroman’. To a certain extent this is his most autobiographic novel too.
The main character is Timothy, an English schoolboy who spends one of his summer at his older sister, Kath, in Heildelberg, Germany, in the post-war period. This is his first trip abroad, all by himself. This is the time when he finds out a totally different lifestyle, new habits and customs, interesting people, a surprising atmosphere in a post-war era (in a German space filled up with Americans), intimacy and courage.
I don’t think I’m going to recommend this book to some of my friends that read literature because at a first, bare reading it has nothing special. To me, it has. It is.
I was, in a way, like Timothy. Out of the shelter. I went to France all by myself, it was my first trip abroad and it took more than six months. I learned a lot, discovered people and places and, most important of them all, discovered myself. It was an ‘unforgettable rite of passage’!
I am sure my mentor didn’t know what this book was all about. She knew Lodge, she knew that I liked the author and saw me once in a bookshop hesitating among bookshelves, between French and English Literature. I chose to buy Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir ‘s books at that time but some months later on, she remembered that there was this other book I wanted to buy & didn’t know what to do. So she did buy it for me. I read it and from time to time I found myself in this book and realised that sometimes things in life are just meant to be like they are and that things happen for a reason irrelevant of what we expect, encounter, hope or dream. They just happen and, at a certain time, somewhere in the near or far-away future, we find out its goal. Or not.
p.s. a picture of Heidelberg seemed appropiate for this post and, of course, some words from the novel. I can’t end up my post in a different manner as this one:
The sixth time, she forced his lips apart and pushed her tongue between his teeth. It came into his mouth like a live thing, long wet supple strong.
– What did you do that for? he said distractedly.
-Don’t you like it?
-It’s called French kissing, she whispered. Some kids call it soul- kissing.
Because you lose your immortal soul? he wondered; and did it back to her, at greater length.