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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
When I was a Soldier
by Valerie Zenatti
Age Range: 14+
This is a fascinating true story of a young girl’s experience of her two years’
national service in the Israeli Defence Army (IDF). At the age of 18, Valérie is thrust
into an alien world as she becomes soldier 3810159 and has to learn to adapt to
the structured order of military life. It is a strange existence, crushingly strict
routines, gruelling marches, and plenty of latrine, kitchen and guard duty. She
is trained to defend her country and learns to fire a weapon, despite the fact
that women in the IDF do not go into combat. Although Valérie enjoys her training in intelligence work she begins to question the use of arms and the reality of life for the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
This is a funny, perceptive novel that paints an illuminating portrait of a young woman growing up in a society where violent conflict is accepted as part of every day normal life. Credit must go to the book’s translator, Adriana Hunter, for conveying the author’s ‘teenage voice’ as she recounts her story.
(Outside In: Children’s Books in Translation, Milet, 2005)