November 21, 2017
You Will Not Have My Hate
You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris
2016 Penguin Press
Finished on December 31, 2016
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)
On 13 November 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène, was killed, along with 88 other people at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, when three men armed with guns and suicide bombs opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd at a rock concert. Three days later, Leiris, a young journalist, wrote an open letter on Facebook addressed to his wife’s killers. Leiris refused to be cowed or to let his 17-month-old son’s life be defined by Hélène’s murder. He refused to let the killers have their way. ‘For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom,’ he wrote. Instantly, that short Facebook post caught fire. It was shared over two hundred thousand times and was reported on all over the world. In his beautiful and moving defiance of the terrorists who had killed his wife, Leiris became an international hero to everyone searching desperately for a way to deal with the horror of the attacks.
You Will Not Have My Hate is an extraordinary and heartbreaking memoir about how Leiris, and his baby son Melvil, endured after Hélène’s murder. With courage, moral acuity, and absolute emotional honesty, Leiris finds a way to answer the question, how can I go on? This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience. Leiris is guiding star for us all in perilous times.
Oh, this is such a beautifully written memoir filled with lyrical prose for such a heartbreaking story. My husband and coworkers couldn't understand why I would want to read such a tragic memoir, but I felt compelled, almost obligated to hear Antoine's story. He shares so many thoughts about the tragic, violent death of a loved one, which includes the tender perspective of his young son's feelings of loss. I read this slim book in a single day. I could have read it in one sitting, but I needed to take a few breaks, it's so sad. The entire book could be shared as favorite quotes, but I'll leave you with just a few:
Melvil waits. He waits to be big enough to reach the light switch in the living room. He waits to be well-behaved enough to go out without a stroller. He waits for me to make his dinner before I read him a story. He waits for bath time, for lunch time, for snack time. And tonight, he waits for his mother to come home before he goes to bed. Waiting is a feeling without a name. As I read him one last story, it brings all of them at the same time. It is distress, hope, sadness, relief, surprise, dread.
On Friday night, you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hate. I don't know who you are and I don't want to know. You are dead souls. If that God for whom you blindly kill made us in his image, each bullet in my wife's body will have been a wound in his heart.
So, no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. That is what you want, but to respond to your hate with anger would be to yield to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to see my fellow citizens through suspicious eyes, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have failed. I will not change.
"I've come to read the electric meter."
I should have remembered the letter warning me of this visit. Helene stuck it to our fridge, and I walk past the fridge several times a day. But recently I have been blind to the world.
"Can I come in?"
I thought that if the moon ever disappeared, the sea would retreat so no one would see it crying. I thought the winds would stop dancing. That the sun would not want to rise again.
Nothing of the kind. The world continues to turn, and meters must be read.