A book that changed my life.
I love to read books. Over the years I must have read thousands. Sometimes more than one book per day. Ofcourse I had to read many books for my final exams in english en dutch. Some of them I liked, some I didn’t.
Thinking about books these days made my realise I read in ‘blocks’. Blocks of a genre: for many years I only did read science fiction and fantasy books. Books of non-fiction like memoires of people like Bill Clinton, Blocks of books by one author, like Graham Greene, Dorris Lessing, Steinbeck, Remco Campert, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Heinlein. A bloack of all the books of Tolkien. Poetry by Shakespeare. And so on. And between those blocks I like to read thrillers, especially detective stories.
Ofcourse I can see the difference between a good written book and a badly written book.( I know my english is not good enough to write english Literature. I doubt if I ever would be able to write in dutch something that could be called Literature. I don’t even know if I would want to do that, even if I could.) But if a book is written poorly or very good doesn’t matter to me most.
I like a book when you can go deep in the story, feel what the persons in the book feel. You are so much in the story that you hate it when you have to stop reading.
I like a book when it shows me a new viewpoint on whatever aspect of life / philosophy/ religion/whatever.
One of my favourites is the book Shikasta by Doris Lessing.
( Wikipedia says this about the book written in 1979: The first in her five-volume series of SF novels, Canopus in Argus, Shikasta is the story of a fallen paradise, a planet cut adrift from the influence of the advanced civilisation that has brought peace, prosperity and accelerated development. Johor travels to Rohonda and finds it with too little “Spirit of We Feeling”, a world which has turned to greed, war and destruction. Despite critical dismay at her new direction, Lessing was unabashed, suggesting that “science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time”, and confessing an admiration for the “classic sort of science fiction”. It is indeed true that it is the first of five books in Canopus in Argus, but it is also the follow up of her serie of 5 books called Children of Violence * ( 1952, 1954, 1958, 1965, 1969, Book 1: Martha Quest Book 2: A Proper Marriage Book 3: A Ripple from the Storm Book 4: Landlocked Book 5: The Four-Gated City
In the “Archives’ in the back of the book Shikasta you can read how the life went on or ended of the perons out of her Children of Violence serie.
Shikasta, although written in 1979 is a perfect view on our world of nowadays with millions of people being refugees in camps in terrible conditions.
Those books gave me a different view on many aspects of our society and I can recommend them for you to read.
But there is ONE BOOk that changed my life.
I won’t tell you why. I can only tell you that I bought and read this book, lend it out, never got it back, bought it again, lend it out, never got it back, bought it again and never lend it out, but sometimes fif give it as a present to someone who wanted to lend it from me.
The book is called : Mister God, this is Anna.
This is what wikipedia says about it: ”
The story begins on the streets of the East End of London in the mid-1930s. While roaming the docks at night, the author comes across a small girl sitting on the grating below a shop window. He sits down next to her, and engages her in conversation. Unable to find out where she came from, Fynn takes the child home, only to discover she is an abused runaway. She spends her next three years as Fynn’s inseparable companion.
The book gives an account of their friendship. Anna by nature is the inquisitor, the forever probing creature who likes to find a reason for everything. Fynn, a student, tries to follow her hard-to-understand, yet simple logic. Philosophical questions are investigated through the eyes of a child, who proposes simple, common-sense solutions. Many of the conversations involve religion, with Anna personalising God, calling him “Mister God”.
“At five years Anna knew absolutely the purpose of being, knew the meaning of love and was a personal friend and helper of Mister God. At six Anna was a theologian, mathematician, philosopher, poet and gardener. If you asked her a question you would always get an answer – in due course. On some occasions the answer would be delayed for weeks or months; but eventually, in her own good time, the answer would come: direct, simple and much to the point.”
Anna is involved with everything. The gist of the book is the philosophy of a child who has the wisdom to comprehend more than what would be expected of her.
The ending of the book describes Anna’s death and Fynn’s profound grief. “She never made eight years, she died by an accident. She died with a grin on her beautiful face. She died saying, ‘I bet Mister God lets me get into heaven for this’.” Fynn experiences a period of angst, blaming God, but when he visits Anna’s grave and sees it to be a riot of flowers, he lets go of his anger against God. The answer, he realizes, is “Anna is in my middle”. This particular reference is to a conversation between Anna and Fynn. God is part of everybody and everybody is part of God. Fynn walks away from her graveyard with renewed hope.”
If you want to know how Anna ( at five) discoverred how many times per second the wings of a bumblebee move by using mathematics and a piano, you certainly have to read this book.