Title: You Will Not Have My Hate
Author: Antoine Leiris
Publisher: Harvill Secker
UK Release Date: 20th October 2016
Genres: Memoir, France, Nonfiction
On 13 November 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène, was killed, along with 88 other people at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, when three men armed with guns and suicide bombs opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd at a rock concert. Three days later, Leiris, a young journalist, wrote an open letter on Facebook addressed to his wife’s killers. Leiris refused to be cowed or to let his 17-month-old son’s life be defined by Hélène’s murder. He refused to let the killers have their way. ‘For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom,’ he wrote. Instantly, that short Facebook post caught fire. It was shared over two hundred thousand times and was reported on all over the world. In his beautiful and moving defiance of the terrorists who had killed his wife, Leiris became an international hero to everyone searching desperately for a way to deal with the horror of the attacks.
You Will Not Have My Hate is an extraordinary and heartbreaking memoir about how Leiris, and his baby son Melvil, endured after Hélène’s murder. With courage, moral acuity, and absolute emotional honesty, Leiris finds a way to answer the question, how can I go on? This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience. Leiris is guiding star for us all in perilous times.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this book. I’d known that it was in existence for a long time, but when I saw it at the library I immediately borrowed it, and read it the following weekend in a couple of sittings. I knew I wanted to review as well, even though I normally stick to YA on this blog, because of how important this book is. It was such a powerful and impactful book, and I don’t even know if there are words for any of it – the poignancy and the pain in the writing, but also the idea of having the power to not give these people what they want: your hatred.
First of all, something I loved in this book was how beautifully it was written. The book was originally written in French and published under the title Vous n’aurez pas ma haine, but I thought it was excellent as a translation, with still just as much powerful behind the words as there would have been in the original French version. There were some sections of the book which were more anecdotal, sharing events in the life of Leiris and his son in the days after the attack, but there were others that were more about his thoughts. His descriptions of his grief were beautiful in the most heart-breaking way possible, and I don’t think anyone could come out of reading them without feeling very emotional.
Throughout the whole book, there was such a palpable sense of the sadness that Antoine and Melvil Leiris have had to endure, and I’m guessing are still enduring, that it was actually quite painful to read at times. It is unimaginable what they have gone through, and yet somehow they have had to go on. Certain parts of it were particularly poignant and emotional – such as Leiris’ descriptions of his grief, or baby Melvil knowing that his mother was not there, but not being able to ask where she had gone and why.
One of the best things about this book was that even though there was this raw grief and sadness to it, it was also exceptionally powerful. Leiris refuses to hate the terrorists that perpetrated this crime on the basis that this is what they want. In the original Facebook post that he wrote, he said of his son that: ‘For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.’ I think this quote and idea as a whole shows the main message behind the book, that at the end of the day the thing that best opposes what these terrorists stand for is being free and trying to find happiness despite their presence in the world.
On the whole, I would absolutely recommend this book to just about anyone. It is a stunning and heart-wrenching story, that is completely tragic and yet also somehow with a note of hope edging in.