The year we make contact

By age 6 I had learned how to read. I loved reading reference books, especially encyclopedias and atlases. And comics. Also, I would gaze at maps for hours. When I was nine or so, my parents took me on a visit to aunt Barbara. Aunt Barbara (in reality my grandfather’s first cousin) was a high school principal which, back then, was big deal, at least for my family. We discussed my reading habits and she talked to me about literature. I told her I didn’t like literature because it was boring (even today I hold children’s literature in contempt and I find it deeply patronising). Aunt Barbara was alarmed and scolded my parents for not having looked into the matter earlier and lent me three books. I read two of them, they were good and, and I sort of stuck with literature ever since.

Since that time, relatives would do their research before buying me a book. Some of them would do too much research. Once an aunt bought me Zola’s Une page d’amour, which I was almost totally unable to appreciate at age 12, before that (when I was 10) she had bought me Hesse’s Steppenwolf, which I had found terrifying and disturbing. And so on.

Around age 11 I was also given Arthur Clark’s 2010 Odyssey Two, my first sci-fi novel ever, by a friend of my mother’s. I liked it although I hadn’t understood most of it, as I realised years later, when I re-read it. What really had struck me the first time round, when I was 11, was the book’s cover, which was this:

Child of the Stars

2010 Odyssey Two

So, in my 11-year old mind, the year 2010 got linked to the image of a fetus in a womb (against Jupiter and facing Discovery, but still). Most fittingly, too, as it turns out in hindsight.

3 thoughts on “The year we make contact

  1. Is it normal for children of Aunt Barbara’s culture to read Steppenwolf at that young age? Wish i knew arthur clark when i was 12. Lucky sarge

  2. @Greg: The short answer is ‘no’: Compatridos would probably give an early teenager ‘appropriate’ books to read. Aunt Barbara herself gave me three books which were branded as teen literature: one about growing up in Compatridia during the military junta, one about growing up in the late thirties and one about growing up during Nazi occupation (which I never read: too long). However, the other aunt (a real aunt), the one who gave me Zola and Steppenwolf, was really anxious not to patronise me and to give me something intellectually challenging to read…

    Few things stayed with me from my first reading of 2010: who is that Bowman guy? what are those monoliths? (I hadn’t read 2001), von Neumann machines (which I thought was cool), does Vatican possess an orbital nuclear bomb? How come the Chinese have spaeceships? There will be no buttons in 2010! — and so on. So, my reading was that of a contemporary 11-year old’s watching Transformers…

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