I apologize in advance for this post’s length, but I really felt like I had to discuss this in depth. If you want a short reading, you can read only the 5 last paragraphs. Thanks for your understanding.
You know, sometimes, without explanation, there are books that you don’t understand, you feel like you’re too young to read them. But in fact, it’s just that it’s not the right time.
That was the case with the novel Momo des Halles, Philippe Hayat‘s first book.
Two years ago, I did an internship at Allary Editions, a publishing company, which published, for example, L’Arabe du Futur by Riad Sattouf. When I finished my week there – unforgettable one, by the way 😉 – the company offered me some books. One of these books was Momo des Halles.
At this time, I was around 14 years old, and when I started reading it, I put it down after the first chapter. Not because it was bad, but because I wasn’t in the mood for this kind of story, and I didn’t have the same open-mindedness as today.
Momo des Halles slept on my nightstand for nearly two years. I almost forgot it, until last month. I was tired of reading old french classics recommended by school, so I searched in my dusty bookshelf and found it. I found the book that changed my life. Or at least, my month.
Usually, I am not really the kind of War stories lover. But this time was different. I had a revelation. This story of this jewish young man Maurice, who’s around my age, living on his own with his sister during the second World War because their parents have been arrested. He’s got to handle himself, he’s got to work, to earn money. He becomes a merchant at Le carreau des Halles, famous place in Paris, and spends the major part of his time there, with his « second family » : the traffickers. Until he’s arrested too…
This book moved me. Honestly, I’ve rarely seen a book that transcribes that well the emotions. Of course the fact that it is based on a true story makes it easier to identify to the characters, to feel closer to them… But I mean, what surprised me the most was how real the dialogs seemed. You know like the author had to use a familiar language for some characters, but like… it was so well written it almost felt like you could hear them talking !
I think Philippe Hayat did amazing work, and I really am pissed off to see that books like this one are so few publicized ; If Allary Editions hadn’t given it to me, I would’ve probably never read it, or even heard about it, and that really is a pity, cause trust me, interesting and smart books like this one are pretty scarce !
Because this book is a war story, but the author had the intelligence not to show only the war’s horrible sides, in a pathetic way, but to focus on heroes, on all the beautiful things that kept people alive during these terrible days. That makes the book original. And smart. And that’s what made me enjoy it.
People don’t want sad stories that only because pity and guilt. They want hope. And if we want the duty of remembrance to last, that’s the way it works.