Born a Crime 15-end: read-along at Book Bloggers International

born-a-crime

Born a Crime:
chapters 15-end
read-along at
Book Bloggers International

And here we are already at the end of the read-along:

1. Did you like the book? What were some of your favorite passages or chapters?

I liked a lot the book. I don’t think I had read anything in depth about life during and after the apartheid, with concrete details on daily life and all the issues involved, so this was a real eye-opener.
I definitely loved the style of the book, with lots of humor, but also some good slaps in the face as for culture differences and things we allow in our society today.
What interested me more personally were all the passages related to language, how Trevor maneuvered thanks to his knowledge of so many languages, how it allowed him to be accepted by different groups, and also the deep connection between language and identity.

2. In Part III, the book’s chapters get longer, and darker, as Noah goes from being a teenager to a young man. What struck you most about these chapters? Would you call the book a coming of age story?

It all depends what you call a “coming of age story“. In an American context, this expression is often quite mild, about usual teen stuff and first look into the world of work and adults.
Trevor grew up more quickly than most of kids here, he started to work very young as well, before being a teen.
In part 3, he discovers more ugly parts of the adult world, like abuse of women at home, alcoholism, crimes, prison, injustice.
It is a coming of age story in the sense that he realizes he can take a stand towards these issues and part from them, for instance when he realizes his petty crimes do affect real people, he decides to stop. Also when he decides to leave home, not agreeing with his mother’s reaction face to abuse.

3. In Chapter 16, “The Cheese Boys,” Noah writes,

…crime succeeds because crime does the one thing the government doesn’t do: crime cares. Crime is grassroots. Crime looks for the young kids who need support and a lifting hand. Crime offers internship programs and summer jobs and opportunities for advancement. Crime gets involved in the community. Crime doesn’t discriminate.

What do you think Noah meant by this and do you agree?

The context is extremely important. In Trevor’s context when he writes this, with the examples he gives, yes, I agree. But this no longer works taken out of context. For instance this would not apply to gang crimes in Chicago…

4. In “My Mother’s Life,” Noah says children have to learn how to love their parents unconditionally and that it’s not automatic or instinctive. Do you agree with this statement?

I personally agree, I have not experienced love of parents as something automatic or instinctive either, but again, I assume it all depends on the context you grew up and were raised.

5. Do you watch The Daily Show? If you do, has reading the book changed how you see Noah in any way?

I do not have TV. The person who presented this book in my book club and made me want to read it talked about The Daily Show. So I watched one episode on YouTube to see what they were talking about, but I was not impressed at all. I didn’t think his humor there was smart. It’s so much better in the book.

6. Are you left with any unanswered questions you’re wondering about?

I was hoping to get more details about why he left his country to live in the US! It seems so much different than the context he grew up in. There are some elements of answer in the last chapter, but still, there’s a huge difference between deciding to live his own life, away from his mother’s context, and deciding to come and work in the TV American world! But maybe that will be another book!

I would have hoped that someone that smart, who got to know so well all the different groups and issues of his country, would have used his talents to help improve the social situation of his country.
I wonder what his Mom thinks about his current work.

7. Anything else that caught your attention or you want to discuss?

There are some other major topics in the last part:

  • the bad job we do when we say we want to help others – in Africa or even in our own society: like he said, you can teach someone how to fish, but if you don’t give them the basic tool, a fishing rod, to start with, what’s the point? Just to satisfy your own conscience, at best

  • the awful job done by Colonials in the world of education – for instance, they had no idea who Hitler really was and so gave this name as a normal European first name. So sad in the first place that we pushed them to adopt some European first names, but they already had beautiful first names, so much more meaningful that many modern names that no longer mean anything

  • how your relationships with others change when you get to a one on one connection, and see someone’s face. Trevor realized this while dealing with a stolen camera, and saw the faces of the people who had lost their precious souvenirs. We can apply this to many things, for instance law making, or general statements we sometimes make, until we meet someone who is in that very situation.

  • police corruption and unfairness, how they were always taking the side of the abusive violent husband in the book, instead of the victim.

  • how faith can have some very concrete results! (chapter 18)

VERDICT: If you know nothing about South Africa, I highly recommend this book. An easy read, with lots of humor, but that goes right to the heart of things, with amazing concrete examples of a feisty mother and how she raised her children.

Eiffel Tower Orange

 

If you want to see my comments on the other chapters, please check:

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I love France #36: (2012) #60 Review: The Passionate Heart

I LOVE FRANCE!

I plan to publish this meme every Thursday.
You can share here about any book
or anything cultural you just discovered related to France, Paris, etc.

Please spread the news on Twitter, Facebook, etc !
Feel free to grab my button,
and link your own post through Mister Linky,
at the bottom of this post.

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The Passionate Heart

by Béatrix BECK

237 pages

Published in 1952

Léon Morin, prêtre

THIS BOOK COUNTS FOR THE FOLLOWING READING CHALLENGES

      

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

Rating system

I read this book in French, prompted by one of my French students. I have to say, I had never heard of Béatrix Beck before, or never paid attention to her name (a Goodreads reviewer says her name is mentioned in A Novel Bookstore!), though she won the Goncourt!

Her writing is direct, abrupt even. I found The Passionate Heart to be rather on the dark side, not only because it is set on the background of the French Resistance, but mostly because the faith journey Beck describes never really brings any joy to the one who goes through it. Barny is presented almost liked trapped on her conversion journey, which she embarked as a quasi joke, or at least full of sarcasm towards the Church.

The figure of the priest is very rich and ambiguous: is he really trying to convert this lady? If so, what is his deep motive? Is he trying to flirt with her, as the movie tends to interpret?

The book evolves little by little into short vignettes on different characters, and how these people change. I was a bit surprised by the end, but I guess that was a smart way of resolving the conflict, if conflict there was.

I watched the movie right after, but did not like the way they interpreted the novel: the figure of the priest, played by a young Jean-Paul Belmondo, is made even more ambiguous, the religious and philosophical dialogues do not seem as real as in the book.

If you are looking for something different in French, that’s worth the read. I have not read the English version, so not sure of the quality of the translation.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

The Passionate Heart (French: Léon Morin, prêtre) is a 1952 novel by Béatrix Beck, which won the Prix Goncourt. It was published in the UK as The Priest (1953) and in the US as The Passionate Heart (1953).

A movie version was made in 1961 called Léon Morin, Priest (French: Léon Morin, prêtre), directed and scripted by Jean-Pierre Melville, and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Emmanuelle Riva. Belmondo was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor.

In a small French town during the Occupation, Barny is a young, wayward, sexually frustrated widow, living with her little girl. She is also a communist militant who long ago decided that the easiest way was the best. One day she enters a church, randomly chooses a priest and starts criticizing the religion. But the priest is Leon Morin, who is young, handsome, clever and altruistic. He believes that any sin can be expunged by a good dose of faith, and does not offer her the reaction she was expecting. She is disturbed. She starts frequenting Morin, impressed by his moral strength, while he makes it his mission to steer her onto the right path. [wikipedia]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Béatrix Beck

Béatrix Beck (14 July 1914 – 30 November 2008) was a French writer from Belgian origin.

She was born at Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, the daughter of the poet Christian Beck. After several jobs, she became the secretary of André Gide who encouraged her to write about her experiences: her mother’s suicide, the war, her poverty, etc.

Beck died in Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 2008. [wikipedia]

Photo Louis Monier

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