The New York Times Book Review Certainly Buten offers some insight into a troubled child's mind.
When I Was Five I Killed Myselfby Howard Buten
Burton Rembrandt has the sort of perspective on life that is impossible for most adults to even begin to comprehend: the perspective of an 8-year-old boy. And to Burt, his parents and teachers seem to be speaking a language he cannot understand. When Burt meets Jessica, a classmate, he finds solace from the problems of growing up, of dealing with parents and teachers… See more details below
Burton Rembrandt has the sort of perspective on life that is impossible for most adults to even begin to comprehend: the perspective of an 8-year-old boy. And to Burt, his parents and teachers seem to be speaking a language he cannot understand. When Burt meets Jessica, a classmate, he finds solace from the problems of growing up, of dealing with parents and teachers and adults in general. But when he expresses the ardent love he feels for Jessica--an adult love dwelling in his child's mind--he is placed in an institution with autistic, mentally retarded, sociopathic, and generally "disturbed" children. This is Burt's story as written in pencil on the walls of the Quiet Room in The Children's Trust Residence Center. It begins: When I was five I killed myself.
First published in the U.S. as a Young Adult novel by Holt in 1981, Buten's bittersweet portrayal of childhood received wide acclaim but never crossed the line that separates adolescent and adult fiction. In France it has come to be considered a modern classic for children and adults alike. Not since John Irving's Owen Meany has a little boy's particular frame of mind been so indelibly set down on the page, and with this new edition of When I Was Five I Killed Myself, Buten's classic novel is certain to touch readers of all ages.
"Novelist Howard Buten is one of France's best-loved contemporary writers. . . .When I Was Five I Killed Myself has sold more than a million copies in France."--Time
Howard Buten has had seven novels published in France, the first of which, When I Was Five I Killed Myself, has become a modern classic in translation. As a performing artist he has played opera houses around the world as the theatrical clown Buffo. As a clinical psychologist he is the founding clinical director of the Centre Adam Shelton, a national institution for the treatment of autism in young adults, in Paris. In 1991, Howard Buten was named a Chevalier des Artes et Lettres, France's highest literary honor.
- Washington Square Press
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- 5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.60(d)
Read an Excerpt
When I was five I killed myself.
I was waiting for Popeye who comes after the News. He has large wrists for a person and he is strong to the finish. But the News wouldn't end.
My dad was watching it. I had my hands over my ears because I am afraid of the News. I don't enjoy it as television. It has Russians on who will bury us. It has the President of the United States who is bald. It has highlights from this year's fabulous Autorama where I have been once, it was quite enjoyable as an activity.
A man came on the News. He had something in his hand, a doll, and he held it up. (You could see it wasn't real because of the sewing.) I took my hands off.
"This was a little girl's favorite toy," the man said. "And tonight, because of a senseless accident, she is dead."
I ran up to my room.
I jumped on my bed.
I stuffed my face into my pillow and pushed it harder and harder until I couldn't hear anything anymore. I held my breath.
Then my dad came in and took my pillow away and put his hand on me and said my name. I was crying. He bent over and put his hands under me and lifted me up. He did this to the back of my hair and I put my head on him. He is very strong.
He whispered, "It's ok, Son, don't cry."
"I'm not," I said. "I'm a big boy."
But I was crying. Then Dad told me that every day somebody gets dead and nobody knows why. It's just the rules. Then he went downstairs.
I sat on my bed for a long time. I sat and sat. Something was wrong inside me, I felt it inside my stomach and I didn't know what to do. So I layed down on the floor. I stuck out my pointer finger and pointed it at my head. And I pushed down my thumb. And killed myself.
Copyright © 1981, 2000 by Howard Buten
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