In a Parisian ghetto, Lila, a sixteen-year-old Catholic girl, stops to talk to Chimo, a nineteen-year-old Arab boy, and puts into motion a sequence of events that is shockingly raw, sensual, and devastating. Lila's angelic demeanor barely contains the vitality and powerful eroticism that are destined to destroy her. No matter how hard he tries, Chimo is unable to resist the pull of this tragic girl.
Lila Says is Chimo's journal of his encounters with Lila. Each time they meet, she tells him increasingly troubling tales of her supposed exploits and violations, inspiring in the uneducated Chimo a previously untapped poetry. With grace and a streetwise wit, he records her story. His narrative builds relentlessly, breathlessly, until it becomes clear that Lila is perilously close to the edge, where the brutality of the world they inhabit threatens to consume her.
Lila Says, a touching, wrenching tale of innocent love sprung from wanton degradation, convinces us that even in the bleakest, most bitter settings, beauty and romance are possible.
The most sensational foreign novel in recent memory, Lila Says became an instant bestseller in France. In the tradition of Marguerite Duras's The Lover and Pauline Reage's Story of O, Lila Says is a magnificent debut.
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Chimo is a pseudonym. The extraordinary success of Lila Says in France set off an intense debate over the true identity of this anonymous author who, the story goes, scribbled Lila's story in ballpoint pen, filling two school notebooks. His, or her, identity remains veiled.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
She stops, she begins by telling me this:
"You see I've got this angel face, everybody tells me so. See my eyes so bright and blue you'd give your own right out of your head for them. You see my hair so blond, my aunt she says, it's like silkworms shat gold just for me."
Why she's talking to me like that I don't know. Then she goes:
"My skin, my aunt she says it would be heaven for Saint Lawrence. Because Saint Lawrence he's the one they cooked on a grill, so my aunt says he'd have deserved spending his eternity on a skin like mine. You see my hands, they're delicate, soft and white, when I put them together the good Lord goes along with whatever I want."
She's quiet for a moment her head droops then she raises it again and says:
"You can hear my voice, talking to you. Like a bell at a baptism, my aunt says, like the wind in a meadow in the month of May. Because she talks that way, my aunt who's ugly as an old shoe. Worst is she doesn't realize -- you know her?"
I say no.
"She's clueless so she makes herself up like a sideshow poster. Three hours every morning in front of her mirror with her brushes and then she stays home."
Actually I do know her aunt a little, I saw her one day at her broken window up on the sixth floor chewing out the whole world.
Then she says, see my arms, see my legs, they're like this and like that, I don't even remember anymore what her aunt said, wait a minute, yeah, legs that would make a lovely votive necklace for Saint Christopher and feet that could walk on water. Feet that wouldn't sink into the waves 'cause it's always sin that weighs you down and makes you drown.
That's how she sees the world, her aunt.
We're there the two of us near the sandbox, the kids have already gone home, you hear the same thing from all the TVs, the evening game shows are starting, around here everyone dreams the wheel of fortunes going to land its arrow right on them, and the radios are on too in Arabic I have trouble understanding. You can see the trees aren't moving it's like they were concrete painted dark and then the guy who's a security guard over at the Mammoth Supermarket rolls up on his cheap-shit moped he bought used that gives off so much black smoke you feel like calling the fire department and every night he hauls that sucker all the way up three flights of stairs so no one'll swipe it, you'd think it was a mountain bike just for the projects.
Then from nowhere she says:
"Want to see my pussy?"
Me I don't go yes or no, like I hadn't heard. Course it's clear what she said but I wait a bit. I know what she's up to, I'm just being careful here. I'm not the kind of person jumps through the first open window even if it says c'mon in.
So she goes on some more about her pussy:
"My aunt you know, she wants to see it every morning and every night. She gets right in front of it and she stares at it so long it pisses me off. I even get cold. And she goes on singing its praises. About how it's the gate to the valley of bliss where the climate's always really nice. She tells me stuff you don't know where she gets it all like for example how there's a tremendous genie locked inside that'll bust out of there if he ever gets ahold of Ali Baba's can opener."
And on and on. Her aunt makes up poems about Lila's pussy all day long. About how a little jewel of ruffledy silk like that, with its hidden bud and swollen leaves stuck on tight, it'll never get crumpled. (Not like her own trampled bush Lila says.) About how it's so blond it could be a lantern when you've lost your way in life. About how, eyes closed, just from the smell you could follow it upriver to the fountain of youth. About how it's a prayer a balm a treasure island and Jesus Christ's sugar candy.
Well now she's definitely bugging me about her pussy. The first time was just a question sort of casual then nothing more, like she suddenly forgot straight off. That's also why I'm letting her come on, to see how far she'll go. Find out if she's really got something to brag about.
And don't you be surprised (anybody who might be reading this) that even though I live practically across from the Islamic Center I'm always talking about Saint Lawrence and the rest. It's 'cause her aunt she's Christian and Lila must be too. Christian how come I don't know, not how or why, maybe a way of getting noticed or the family just is. Seems her aunt even makes the sign of the cross when the mailman arrives. Her mouth's always so stuffed full of holiness you'd think she'd choke on it. Paradise and the Holy Virgin she sticks them in everywhere, and superblessed be the name of the Angel Gabriel and all the others too except for Saint Paul, she can't stand him since he's macho like you wouldn't believe, big mistake making that one a saint she says.
It's me writing all this here but it's not me talking religion, it's this aunt of Lila's. I mean why should I give a flying fuck about God since he forgot me somewhere along the way, besides I don't know him or his saints neither. My father used to say when he was still around that sometimes all you've got is enough grit to get some in your eye.
And why's that kid blond anyways? Because Norwegian girls sure don't spend their vacations around here. Lila she's the only natural blonde in the whole place I bet. So blond she sticks out like a spot. My father said you used to see bottle blondes bleached like that by the Devil, but now Islam has cracked down, you have to respect God's handiwork, if he made you all crippled and crummy he's got his reasons.
Or else the girls sneak streaks into their hair underneath their head scarves, or a few of them even dye their pubes, just to make sure they're fighting back somehow.
She says it again:
"Don't you want to see my pussy?"
"For how much?" I ask.
"Whatever you want."
"I know you're broke," she tells me. "I wasn't talking money here. I didn't say that so you'd pay. I know you've got nothing. No one here has anything. If I wanted to get paid for it I'd go somewhere else."
"So why'd you say it?"
"Just because, a little treat for us. Seemed to me like you might want it."
When she speaks, I'm not lying, it's like the airs tickling you. I don't know how to explain this, it's not something you can see, you just feel it. Her voice changes everything around here though she's not talking loud. Even the trees that look like cement they're touched when she speaks. Her aunt's talked this over with the mailman and she says it's the voice of purity, it's the voice that sings in streams and sets off wars.
I've got notes all over the place and now I'm trying to organize them a little. I can see I started the notebook backwards with the red line on the right. But it's too late to do everything over, I'm writing real slow, watching out for mistakes, I'm hurrying but I don't know if I'll ever get to the end. Unbelievable how long it takes, I'd no idea. I've never read a whole book through, so writing one, well.
To get back to that blond color and the way it stands out and where she came from with her skin and her straw-colored angel's hair, it seems her aunt, who's sort of purplish gray-brown, claims it comes from way back. Sometimes it goes back forty or fifty generations and then boing right under your nose you get a blonde in a dark family, even the experts don't know why, it's like a Ferrari showing up one morning in the parking lot outside H block.
She says it again:
"You sure you don't want me to show it to you?"
"Why're you looking to show it to me?"
"I told you. I feel like it tonight."
With that voice like a spider's thread floating in the air.
"And not other nights?" I ask her.
"'Cause hey, you're not the only one."
"So you've shown it to others?"
But she doesn't answ
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Book Description Fourth Estate Ltd, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 180 pages. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # __0007292767
Book Description HARPER COLLINS, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: NEW. 9780007292769 This listing is a new book, a title currently in-print which we order directly and immediately from the publisher. Bookseller Inventory # HTANDREE0982173