When I Was Five I Killed Myself

When I Was Five I Killed Myself

5.0 3
by Howard Buten
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly (starred review) This psychologically intense tale moves quickly, and the difficult task of creating a child's voice with authenticity and depth proves Buten a gifted stylist and storyteller.

The New York Times Book Review Certainly Buten offers some insight into a troubled child's mind.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A kind of "Boy, Interrupted" starring a misunderstood eight-year-old, Buten's first novel, written in the late '70s, has likewise been misunderstood stateside. Burton Rembrandt is placed in the Children's Trust Residence Center, an institution for disturbed, psychopathic or autistic children, following an inappropriate amorous encounter with female classmate Jessica. Told in Burt's precocious voice, the story is supposedly written by the boy in pencil on the walls of the Quiet Room. It is a compelling study of the tragedy that can result when literal-minded children and literal-minded adults fail to understand each other. The adults (parents and psychiatrists alike) take little responsibility for the misinformation they spout while they narrowly interpret as sociopathology Burt's innocent comments, normal for any child, about his "hate" or his desire to "kill" something. Wrongly incarcerated with autistic and truly sociopathic children, it is not until Burt encounters a sympathetic psychiatric resident that hope begins to grow, both in Burt and the reader, that the boy will finally be seen for what he is: a child who has a right to an ordinary life. A similar case of mistaken identity has also dogged Buten's novel for 19 years: in 1981 a small, now out-of-print edition of this book was published in the U.S. under the title Burt and was mistakenly billed as a young adult title, receiving little attention. The French translation sold more than a million copies, however, and it has twice been adapted as a film and produced as a play there. Subsequently, Buten published six other novels in France. This psychologically intense tale moves quickly, and the difficult task of creating a child's voice with authenticity and depth proves Buten a gifted stylist and storyteller. The re-publication, after nearly two decades, of this imaginative and provocative book should earn the author the acclaim he deserves on this side of the Atlantic. Agent, the Young Agency. (June) FYI: A clinical psychiatrist, Buten is the founding clinical director of the Adam Shelton Center for the treatment of autism. In the guise of a clown, Buffo, he also performs for autistic children. In 1991, Buten was named a Chevalier des Artes et Lettres, France's highest literary honor. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Published in 1981 as Burt, this novel, told from the point of view of a child, received praise for actually sounding as such. Unfortuntately, it was unfairly marketed as a young adult title, so librarians who passed on it for their adult collections should reconsider this time around. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743423007
Publisher:
Washington Square Press
Publication date:
06/26/2001
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
899,382
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.60(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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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