Idioma original: English

Original title: The Children VI (unpublished in English)

Translation: Virginia Rech

Year of publication: 2022

Valuation: highly recommended

On the day that everyone over the age of 12 commits mass suicide for unexplained reasons, the surviving children search for a way to rebuild their world. It’s that simple.

A plot like this reminds us of apocalyptic films like Shyamalan’s “The Happening” or novels like “Lord of the Flies.” And yes, there is some of that. But, in my opinion, the plot itself is the least important thing. There are two aspects of this novel (?) that make it worthy of its evaluation.

First, his style. Jesse Ball fragments his book into numerous chapters of very short length (most of them less than a page long). Rather than being witnesses to a narrative, each chapter is presented as an image, a vision, in some cases just as an intuition (I would say that it would work very well as a graphic novel, but in some cases the visual elements are very scarce). The scenes are read in one go, and the impression is presented almost simultaneously. I don’t know if his background as a poet makes it easier for him to present his ideas concentrated in this way, but even in the Spanish version there is an economy of words that is concise and evocative. This, without a doubt, reinforces the emotional impact of the story.

The second notable aspect is the psychological depth of the child characters, more in their interactions than in their dialogue. The children, initially bewildered, form small communities and develop systems, almost like a game, that reflect both their innocence and their surprising maturity in the face of adversity. In this way, themes such as loss, grief and the reconstruction of a sense of belonging and community in a world where traditional structures have collapsed are suggested. Ball plays with identity and perception. The children, forced to mature suddenly, adopt roles that were previously foreign to them, becoming leaders, guardians or followers in an unknown microcosm.

This is a text that is more suggestive than revealing, full of allegories and symbols that require personal interpretation. The plot, more or less conventional at the beginning of the book, turns into a game of masks in which the characters seem to blur and redefine themselves constantly. This constant metamorphosis reflects the instability of the world in which they find themselves, a world in which norms and certainties have disappeared.

Without a doubt, a stimulating read.

I was able to talk with Jesse about his ideas on literature, and in particular about “The Children 6” and “How to Start a Fire and Why”, another highly recommended novel that I will review in future posts. I’ll leave the link below. It’s a must read.


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