You will not have my hatred.
This is Antoine Leiris’s message to the terrorists who murdered his wife, Hélène, on Friday night at the Bataclan theate in Paris.
They have a son who is 17 months old.
I cannot imagine how I might respond if I were to lose my partner, the love of my life, the father of my two small children. It is devastating to consider it, even for a moment. And in this way. At this time, at the beginning of your life together as a family.
Although I doubt it somehow, I would wish, I would hope that I could respond anywhere near as compassionately, as bravely, as defiantly as he did.
His post and over a hundred messages of support he received from family, friends and others, echoes all that I admire about French values and the French way of life. They are the things that inspired me to study the language and made me fall in love with the literature in the first place, perhaps so that I might become just a little more French in this way.
They speak of freedom, family, the joy of the small things in life—good food, good wine, good company, good conversation, a good party—of kisses, embraces, of our deeply human need to be together and a somehow poetic and profound understanding of life, even through its worst tragedy and horror.
Having sadly seen the outpouring of intolerance, hatred and the the desire for revenge on social media, which mingled with the grief and disbelief we all felt to varying degrees, it’s fair to say that every one of us, not just those who committed this atrocity, have a lot we could all learn from Antoine.
Perhaps if we could react to tragedy, to loss, to injustice and pain as he has, it would mean the beginning of the end of these kinds of tragedies.
Here is my best translation at the time of reading (for a slightly better one see the video below):
“On Friday night, you took the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know; you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been a wound in his heart.
So, no, I will not grant this gift of hating you. You asked for it, you wanted it, but responding to hatred with anger would mean falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost. Better luck next time.
I saw her this morning. Finally, after days and nights of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago. Of course I am devastated by this grief, I’ll give you that little victory, but it will be short-lived. I know that she will be with us every day and that we will once again find ourselves in this paradise of free souls to which you will never have access.
We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies of the world. I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to go and be with Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17 months old. He will eat his snack as he does every day, and then we are going to play as we do every day, and for his whole life this little boy will insult you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.”
Antoine, as a wife, as a mother, as a human being, I bow deeply to you.
Author: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: @RechParis/ Twitter