Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Pascal Bruckner's A Dutiful Son

Saying my Prayers

It's bedtime. Kneeling at the foot of my bed, head bowed, hands together, I murmur my prayer in a low voice. I'm ten. After a brief review of the day's sins, I make a request of God, our all-powerful Creator. He knows how regularly I attend mass, how fervently I receive communion, how I love Him above all else. I simply ask Him, implore Him, to bring about the death of my father, while driving if possible. Brakes failing while he's going downhill, black ice, a plane tree, whatever suits Him best. ‘I leave the choice of accident to you, God, see to it that my father kills himself.’

My mother arrives to tuck me in and read me a story. She looks at me tenderly. I intensify my fervour, put on an air of devotion. I close my eyes and say under my breath, ‘I'm leaving you now, God, Maman's just come into my bedroom.’