How many miles to babylon : l'enfance

1663 mots 7 pages
PART2 from p3 « As a child I was alone » to p8 « ...rather short on team spirit. »


Jennifer Johnston, an Irish novelist, published in 1974 How many miles to Babylon, the story of a doomed friendship between Alec, the son of a protestant landlord and Jerry, a catholic boy from the nearby village, at the beginning of the 20th century.
Their friendship overcomes all sorts of hurdles but finally leads both of them to their untimely death in wartime Belgium Flanders.
This book is Alec's memoirs which he wrote in his cell in the trenches, waiting to be « shot at dawn » for disobedience.
The passage stresses how lonely Alec was as a child, being an only child and growing without the love of his mother. The narrator in his cell wonders whether this loneliness was one of the tragic flaws that led him to his present situation. The adult tends to deny it but the portrait he draws of his parents is a severe indictement. Alicia Moore is depicted as a « twisted »* character with no « redeeming feature »* whatsoever who will nevertheless shape the personality of her son who, on the other hand could not see his submissive and weak father as a role model.
(* These words are by the author in an interview she gave.)


The roots of his loneliness are in the education he received. Until he reached the age of 10, Alec's private tutors followed one another without making any impression on him : they are indistinctly remembered as « a series of ladies who taught me a series of subjects ». Although he was taught at home by private tutors, his parents took no part or almost none, to his education. The only exception was when his mother fired the piano teacher whom she found repulsive and who did not meet her expectations. For a short time, she gave piano lessons to her son until she got bored with Alec's lack of progress and finally gave up. No other piano teacher was to replace Mr Cave.

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