The opening six or seven pages of You Will Not Have My Hate, a section entitled ‘One Night in Hell’, is among the most powerful pieces of writing I remember reading. Documenting the evening when, after putting his young child to bed, Antoine came down to a text message that read ‘Is everything okay? Are you at home?’ Confused at first by why a friend might be sending such a message out of the blue, Antoine only makes sense of the words once he turns on the television and sees another short message running along the bottom few inches of the screen. ‘Terror Attack at the Bataclan.’ Antoine sits in his own silence for several minutes and then picks his phone up again and starts to dial his wife’s number on repeat. But she doesn’t pick up. And she never will again.
The next one hundred and twenty odd pages take us through various stages of Antoine’s grief following his realisation that his wife Helene was among the 88 people who died in the Bataclan that evening, from denial and attempts to hide from the truth, to a very emotional ending in which he begins to pass the knowledge of what happened that night onto his baby son.
It is, of course, an often gutwrenching and devastating read. But it is, like Antoine’s open letter to the killers which he posted on Facebook just three days after the events, also a positive lesson in how to not let hate defeat you. In the much-shared Facebook post Antoine wrote
‘I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. That is what you want, but to respond to your hate with anger would be to yield to the same ignorance that made you what you are.’
Now you might think that that is easy to say, but much more difficult to do, and you won’t get any arguments here. But Antoine does all he can to show how possible it really might be on these pages, presenting a message of hope in the middle of these very troubled times.
Any Cop?: This should be a must read. Antoine Leiris not only gives us a framework for responding to the all too familiar troubles of our times, but also provides a beautiful and touching testament to the woman he loved and the son he hopes to bring up how she would have wanted him to. It will undoubtedly make you cry at times, but that’s a small price to pay for the feelings of togetherness and resilience that it provokes.