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‘I lived everything during these three years: heroism, glory, treachery, love, indifference, suffering, humiliation. It was China, I was seven years old.’
So announces the narrator of Loving Sabotage, Amelie Nothomb’s critically acclaimed novel about a young girl already stripped of illusions. The daughter of diplomats posted to Peking in the mid-seventies, our unnamed narrator charges about her tightly enclosed world on her ‘horse’ (bicycle) with the dictatorial clarity and loneliness of a warrior-philosopher. ‘From puberty onwards’, she announces at one point, ‘life is just an epilogue’. There, on the asphalt-playground-battlefield, she discovers her first love: six-year-old Elena, her very own coldly indifferent ‘Helen of Troy’. But she also learns life’s hardest rule: that if she wants to be loved, she must be cruel in return. Poignant, provocative – and often hilarious – Loving Sabotage chronicles one girl’s precocious understanding of the struggles and pains of adult life.
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