Review of “Will You Care If I Die?”: Transforming from an angry outcast to a beacon of hope.
If you are looking for love stories involving beekeepers in Algarve or tales of mysterious poisonings in Kensal Green, you probably won’t find them in Nicolas Lunabba’s memoir. The title itself gives a strong indication of the content. “Will You Care If I Die?” is a brutally honest account of trust and betrayal, with characters teetering on the edge of the unknown. The eloquent translation by Henning Koch skillfully weaves together dark humor, poetic prose, love, and strong opinions in a poignant and challenging journey. Lunabba delves into the vulnerability that comes with opening one’s heart and the transformative power of being valued by just one person, especially after a lifetime of feeling worthless.
Lunabba, a social justice advocate from Sweden, utilizes brief, intense memories to recall his past as an immigrant child facing trauma. He learned to cope with detachment and anger in order to defend himself against a hostile world. After escaping violence and scarcity, he dedicates himself to working in social care, specifically with immigrant children known as “blattes”. With raw honesty, Lunabba depicts himself as a well-meaning individual who struggles with his own intentions. He longs for and fears hope, haunted by a past of toxic masculinity while striving to live with tenderness. The reader is immersed in the dangers faced by the children he seeks to help, while a complacent Swedish society allows the far right to gain power and the media to blame immigrants for the failures of capitalism. As we follow his story, we begin to understand his anxieties and moments of deep affection for the rebellious, basketball-obsessed teenagers he encounters. Each turn of the page holds the potential for another tragedy.
The story alternates between defensive rage, analytical uncertainty, and sardonic humor, all centered on Elijah, the teenage boy who breaks all of Lunabba’s personal and professional boundaries and ends up living in his home. Elijah is a constant presence and the intended audience of the memoir. Lunabba’s determination to connect with and somehow rescue Elijah through her writing leads to a profound sense of emotional and ethical conviction.
Elijah is depicted as a complex individual, with a captivating focus on his attributes: he is youthful, vulnerable, intelligent, skilled at basketball, undereducated, impulsive, and comedic. At the age of 14, he is constantly surrounded by gang violence, police brutality, and the potential to make poor decisions. In Lunabba’s life, Elijah brings both joy and turmoil as he takes on various roles such as a surrogate son, childhood friend, replacement brother, troublesome roommate, and beloved companion. Despite their strange pairing, their relationship evolves and deepens, but with that comes the risk of losing it all. The immense weight of absolute trust is portrayed superbly, along with the dangers of holding onto hope. While a happy ending may seem unlikely, Lunabba still manages to inspire us to root for Elijah’s redemption.
The idea of salvation is often expressed through words, which address the horrors and potential of humanity. Writers like Primo Levi, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, WEB Du Bois, Kristian Lundberg, and Stig Dagerman have explored this theme in their works. For Lunabba, a young boy from a marginalized background, it was a children’s fantasy by Selma Lagerlöf that first sparked his belief in a better life in Sweden. As he grew older, he found solace in the writings of authors like Harry Martinson who condemned poverty and its destructive effects. These authors were a source of support and inspiration during Lunabba’s most difficult times and ultimately helped shape him into a writer who speaks out against those in power who deny people like Elijah the help they need. When Elijah finally discovers the camaraderie found within books, Lunabba’s relief is palpable. However, the reader cannot help but hold their breath, hoping for a happy ending with at least some possibility of being achieved through realistic means rather than relying solely on miracles.
Can you find concern for my death? is just as direct as it sounds. This book is committed to seeking the truth and boldly confronts hopelessness, brutality, pointlessness, anger, and suffering with a contagious sense of rebellion. The mere fact that we are alive and able to write is a triumph in itself, suggesting that we have a foothold in our future. Despite the challenges of our current era and the difficult environment we live in, Lunabba has crafted a valuable companion that transcends cultural boundaries. This book offers a new path to redemption that can be carried with us wherever we go, and delves into the revolutionary concept of love.
Can I Count on Your Concern If I Pass Away? Written by Nicolas Lunabba, Will You Care If I Die? is available from Picador for £16.99. To help the Guardian and Observer, purchase your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Additional fees may apply for delivery.