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:
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.