I have a memory–I can’t place it exactly, but I’m at the school fair flipping through used books. You have to picture the scene: my school was in an upper class neighbourhood of Paris. I hadn’t been there long, and I had no liking for the place: the combination of being the only Asian/non-white person at school plus something of a geek pretty much guaranteed me a miserable time, making me the target of a number of unpleasant quips and jokes and other nice forms of exclusion (I did have a few very good friends, and the overall situation got better as the years went by–and I’m not complaining at all! Just setting the scene for what happens next).
The books on display were mostly of the boring “educational for children” variety, or non fiction books, which mostly didn’t really interest me at the time. So I was bored; and thinking of moving to another stall–until I found this book. It was a small tattered volume of short stories, and I flipped it open, and read the first one in a single sitting. It was… quite unlike anything I had read before–there was no happy ending, no triumph of technology, just the thoughtless cruelty children will cheerfully mete out between them. It spoke to me in a language I could appreciate and relate to–which fascinated and repelled me all at once. I bought the book and took it home.
The story was “All Summer in a Day”, and the book was an anthology of Bradbury’s stories–to this day I remember that first story, and the one that came just afterwards, “The Long Rain”. It was decades ago, so far ago that the past feels almost like another country; and I have forgotten the titles (which were in French anyway); but I have not forgotten the stories. They were threatening and witty and cruel all at once, and though there was little science to them, they nevertheless encompassed profound truths about the human condition and the savage irony of our lives.
Rest in peace, Ray Bradbury. Your words are in my heart.