Montag, 15. März 2010

The Other Hand – Chris Cleave

It was roughly two weeks ago when an interesting person suggested reading this book in midst of a good discussion. Upon my question what this book was about, she only answered ‚I can’t tell you’, which of course added to my natural curiosity. I ordered the book and once I got it, I couldn’t really stop reading anymore. It is fairly different to the other books I typically read. To what extend? Well, I guess that is hard to explain without telling you some of its content - which the author has explicitly requested not to.

But I guess on an abstract level, one could say that a large part behind the story is about choices we all make in our lives, it is about choices we evade and it is about the consequences of these two ways of choosing. From that point of view, it is a fairly existentialistic novel and throughout various scenes, I kept thinking of Viktor Frankl and his concept of attitudinal values (Einstellungswerte).

According to Frankl, there are three possible ways to categorise our quest for the meaning of life. Besides experiential values (experiencing something or someone we value) and creative values (creating something of value to us or on an abstract level, create value by becoming involved into our own life) it is especially the concept of attitudinal values, which become apparent throughout this novel. In various scenes, Chris Cleave steers his antagonists into predicament and watches them closely how they deal with it, based on their inner most emotions and feelings. Similar to Frankls experiences it transpires, that one part of the equation to meaning in life can be found in agony since it is there, where we face irrevocabilities of life which force us to accept a given situation and leave us no more alternative as to choose our attitude with which we face our fate. It is a remarkable view that this last choice we can make constitutes the largest freedom we own. Fair enough, we have to bear the consequences of our choices and Chris Cleave makes this horribly clear throughout the evolvement of the plot. But it becomes also transparent that if we dare to take such a choice, we defy all chains that have held us back from discovering our very personal meaning of live.

‘Listen Charlie’, I said. ‘Your daddy did not die because you were not there. It is not your fault. Do you understand? You are a good boy, Charlie. It is not your fault at all.’

Charlie pulled himself out of my arms and looked at me.

‘Why did mine daddy die?’

I thought about it.

‘The baddies got him, Charlie. But they are not the sort of baddies Batman can fight. They are the sort of baddies that your daddy had to fight in his heart and I have to fight in my heart. They are baddies from inside.’

Charlie nodded. ‘Is there lots?’

‘Of what?’

‘Of baddies from inside?’

I looked at the dark tunnels, and I shivered.

‘I think everyone has them’ I said.

And now, towards the end of this blog entry, I am looking high and low for a verb that would give an appropriate explanation of my feelings while reading this book – but I guess I really enjoyed reading this book although joy is at all not what one feels while reading it. Either way, it’s worthwhile reading – go for it.

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