Yad Vashem Publications' new release, Tin Soldier in a Cardboard Box, by Ari Livne is a coming-of-age story that reflects great pain, but also optimism as to the human ability to survive.
Born in Vienna, Henri's (Ari Livne) life changed irrevocably when he was eight years old. After escaping with his parents to Belgium and several years of avoiding arrest, Henri was taken in by "Aunt Angele" a local woman living in Nazi-occupied Brussels. Henri adopted a false identity as a French-speaking Christian boy. His knack of staying calm under pressure, his acting abilities and his improvisation skills helped him escape from near-fatal traps time and again. With psychological depth and unrelenting tension, the complex relationship between the author's adopted and real identities comes to the fore in the descriptions of his daily fight for survival.
In times of suspected danger, Henri would hide in a camouflaged dugout in Aunt Angele's garden. During the hours spent there, he relied on his vivid imagination and daydreaming to transport himself to a world of fantasy where he could invite the people of his choice, for instance, his parents or other family members, and hold long conversations with them.
In Tin Soldier in a Cardboard Box, Ari Livne has reconstructed his childhood feelings to create a young hero in a world gone insane. With psychological depth and unrelenting tension, the complex relationship between his adopted identity and who he really was is described during the daily fight for survival.
Excerpt from book:
"Since the single room in which we lived in had no space for more than two beds, a closet and a small table, it was impossible to move about and play. I remember lying on my bed most of the time and playing with the only toys I possessed in those years, a tin soldier and a small box made of some kind of corrugated material, possibly cardboard, both painted green. The box served as barracks, a bed for the soldier, a house and a training facility and I played with those two article for hours, for entire days…But, at some stage, I decided to stop playing with the tin soldier and box. I made do with just my imagination, without having to hold anything in my hands. Everything now took place inside my head and I spent long hours in bed, daydreaming. I imagined myself playing with toys - a different toy every time - and I really enjoyed it."
Ari Livne lives with his family in Israel and has been a civil servant for most of his career.