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France

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeI’m reading Anthony Doerr’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the Light we Cannot See. It is set in occupied France during World War II and follows the lives of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, and a German boy, Werner Pfennig. (I’m less than half-way through the book, and so their paths haven’t crossed yet, but I suspect that will happen soon.)

Along with 56 other cadets, Werner is in Nazi military training school. In one particularly moving scene, Werner’s friend, Frederick, is singled out as the weakest cadet. The commandant hands a piece of black hose to another cadet (Rödel) … and the beating begins. The narration follows Werner’s thoughts.

Everything becomes soaked in a hideous and wondrous slowness. Rödel rears back and strikes. This time he catches Frederick on the jaw. Werner forces his mind to keep sending up images of home: the laundry; dogs in the alleys; steam blowing from stacks—every part of him wants to scream: is this not wrong? But here it is right.

Reading about occupied France 75 years ago takes on unique meaning in light of the horrifying events that unfolded in Paris last weekend.

And Werner’s quote …

I don’t know the best political course of action or what we should do or even how to pray.  But I find myself foolishly hoping beyond hope that somehow, those caught up in the ways of IS / ISIS / ISIL / Daesh will want to scream: is this not wrong? Oh how I hope that somehow, like Werner in this story, their humanity will overcome even the darkest of circumstances where wrong has been perverted into right … and scream.

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