The title of a short novel by European author Agota Kristof
, curiously translated from "Le Grand Cahier" (French
). Originally published in Paris
in 1986, it is the author's first novel. Grouped with The Proof
and The Third Lie
, its sequels, in later publications.
The notebook belongs to two unnamed twin
boys in an unnamed East-European
country during World War II
, first allied with the Nazi
s, then conquered by the Russia
ns and integrated into the Soviet Union
. These details are never disclosed explicitly within the book, but can be worked out with ease. It retains its value, however, as an account pertaining to war
in general, and not specifically to WWII. It also deals with the subjects of class discrimination
and human morals
, through this main theme
and independently of it.
The pair serves as a single unit, always
, and communicates with the reader using the plural
form throughout the entire book. They are quick
, determined learners and never forget anything. They never make mistakes
. To me, they represent the survival and evolution of an ideal
throughout circumstances that obliterate the normal
code of morality, and later on the individual
. Be this the case or not, the book is heavily loaded with subtext.
The text consists of short essay tasks the twins assign to themselves, written in a simplistic, objective and factual manner very uncharacteristic of children. The language itself would've made a smooth
, easy read, if not for the content which is often appalling either morally, sex
ually, or both.
The war is, of course, masked from the twins by a veil of words
, or rather the lack thereof, but they perceive everything that happens around them nonetheless. This is not, therefore, a childish account laden with innocence
and question marks
, but rather with the insightful grasps of a pair unmolested by cowardice, dishonesty and ignorance
The ending is brilliant