A Book I Love and Hate (Old Post, Edited and Expanded)


How is it possible to both love and hate the same book? Isn’t that a self-contradictory feeling, an emotional (and perhaps intellectual) paradox?

The book in question is “Les Malheurs de Sophie,” by the Comtesse de Segur, which I re-read simultaneously almost two years in the original French, and in a good English translation.

I enjoyed most of the stories in the book, but the ones involving the deaths of living creatures horrified me. Let me put it this way; not one of them died a natural death. I’d rather not go into details
. All I will say is that the cruelty was sometimes thoughtless, and sometimes deliberate.

What I found especially disturbing is that this is a children’s book.
Then again, perhaps those chapters were meant to instill a feeling of compassion for helpless creatures, but in that case, why not show kindness instead of cruelty? After all, isn’t it often more effective to teach by a positive, rather than a negative, example?

I’m usually vividly opposed to abridged versions of books, but in this case the removal of those chapters would be an improvement.
I’m definitely going to skip them if I read this book again.

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