As if it was yesterday, I remember reading Michel Tournier's Vendredi ou la Vie Sauvage (Friday or the Savage Life). But it was 1982 and I was in 8th grade, as is my son almost thirty years later.
I have read exerts of the book in the last years because it is inevitable; the novel is a French classic. Yet, reading the book again today is a novel experience, not just because of my developed analytical skills and my grown curiosity, but because my son found it interesting to listen to the audio of the book, a first time literary experience for both of us. I didn't object in the least because the writer himself, Michel Tournier, is reading it and because I thought it would be a perfect way for us to read simultaneously.
And so we sat, at half hour intervals, listening to the writer read! What an extraordinary experience. I have always wondered how a writer lives his fiction, how he relates to his creation. I question Atiq Rahimi, the Goncourt laureat, every chance I get. I have even had the chance to gaze at some text, when he randomly opened "Maudit Soit Dostoevski" before he gifted me a book.
Today, we listen to Michel Tournier, the author I discovered 30 years ago, read his own text, emphasize his own words, react to his own narrative. This is the narrative I keep quizzing my son about because literature reading at the age of twelve is all about understanding the story. The language and the style are luxuries you attain to after years and years of reading and literature classes.
Rich with that experience, I pondered the myth of Robinson, remembered the late Edward Said's interpretation of "the civilizing mission", questioned the Western man's desire to control nature and others, but pondered the personality and dilemna of Crusoe. Should you give in to the beauties of life and nature or should you exercise a strict disciplinarian lifestyle (that seems useless on an uninhabited island) that keeps you well grounded and civilized?
In 1982, the inevitable essay was assigned to us: Imagine you were on a desert island, what single thing would you want to take with you?" I was intrepid enough of a teenager to admit to encountering the boy I had a crush on then. I earned the best grade in the class! I remember composing that essay as if it were yesterday. Memory of a blogger!