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When I Was Five I Killed Myself

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Burton Rembrandt has the sort of perspective on life that is almost impossible for adults to understand: the perspective of an 8-year-old. And to Burt, his parents and teachers seem to be speaking a language he cannot understand. This is Burt's story as written in pencil on the walls of Quiet Room in the Children's Trust Residence Center, where he lands after expressing his ardent feelings for a classmate. It begins: When I was five I killed myself....

In this rediscovered modern classic from "one of France's best-loved temporary writers" (Time), Howard Buten renders with astounding insight and wry language the tale of a troubled -- or perhaps just perfectly normal -- young boy testing the boundaries of love and life.

192 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1981

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About the author

Howard Buten

15 books40 followers
Howard Buten is a professional clown, violinist, and novelist; he is also a psychologist specializing in autism.

His first novel, When I Was Five I Killed Myself, has also been published under the title Burt.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 284 reviews
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,155 reviews1,698 followers
November 21, 2022

Jessica e Burt che nel film diventa Gil, più francese.

Nemo propheta in patria: il settantenne Howard Buten, di cui questo toccante libro rappresenta l’esordio letterario (1981), proseguito con un’altra dozzina di titoli – scrittore, ma anche psicologo, e anche suonatore, e anche clown professionista col nome di Buffo – è sconosciuto negli Stati Uniti, dove il suo debutto narrativo è passato largamente sotto silenzio: ma invece con lo stesso titolo ottiene traduzione in francese, vende in quel paese oltre un milione di copie, il libro diventa un film. E lui si trasferisce a vivere lì, oltralpe, e ci rimane fino a oggi, senza aver più voglia di tornare in patria.

Burt, o meglio Gil, col dottore interpretato da Hippolyte Girardot.

La storia è detta da Burt, un bambino di otto anni rinchiuso in un ospedale psichiatrico. Ci vuole tempo a capire perché. E quando si capisce, si rimane comunque senza spiegazione. Perché che male stava facendo Burt alla sua amica Jessica di cui è innamorato, l’unica persona che lo capisce? Non è una reazione esagerata e spropositata recludere un bimbo di otto anni in un’istituzione psichiatrica? In fondo lui stava solo cercando di consolare Jessica che aveva perso suo padre da pochi giorni. In fondo Burt stava solo cercando di far crescere entrambi, lui e Jessica, smettere di essere bambini, diventare adulti, per smettere di soffrire.

Buten fu folgorato nel suo rapporto con l’infanzia dall’essere venuto a contatto con un bimbo autistico. Chissà se gli viene da qui quel dono che gli permette di adottare la giusta altezza di sguardo nel trattare una materia così delicata, seppure incandescente. L'abilità di catturare la voce giusta.
Perché è proprio la voce di Burt che ci conduce facendoci ridere e piangere, mettendoci i brividi.

Il film è del 1994 diretto da Jean-Claude Sussfeld.

Jessica è la bambina di cui è innamorato, se è vero che anche a quell’età si può essere innamorati. O non si può, non è permesso? E esserlo trasforma automaticamente in cattivo, peccatore, colpevole?
Burt non ha risposte. E non le trova neppure nei suoi compagni di reclusione, sociopatici, schizofrenici, paranoici, con disturbi della personalità.
Non gli resta che ricordare: avanti e indietro nel tempo, rivivere quei momenti.
Ma forse, li sta solo inventando: in fondo si sa che i bambini hanno una fantasia sfrenata. E forse è proprio per questo che li scrive a matita sulle pareti della Stanza del Silenzio.

Profile Image for Shannon.
547 reviews97 followers
November 4, 2009
Wow. Just.. wow. Flawlessly executed. Very few books alter the way I actually think; this one did. Also, I don't know if the author did this intentionally (I suspect he did) or if it was just my pre-existing prejucides and psychology background coming into play, but for a large part of the book I had a certain perception of the kid, the one that the adults in the book had, and then it gradually, and then abruptly, with a certain incident that had been hinted a lot, changed. And I felt guilty for my original perception, because I was thinking concretely and simple and.. adult-like. Which in this instance, were it a real event, would be a big mistake. So.. that's the way it changed my thinking. I'm trying not to be spoilery, which is why I'm being vague- because really the book is very suspenseful and I woudln't want to ruin that for anyone. Also this book was AMAZING in the way the author was able to successfully voice an 8-year-old boy. He didn't make him simple, which is what so many authors seem to do when trying to speak from the perspective of a child.

Also, it should be noted that his book was very sad. Not because of the events so much (though those were too), but because of what people's (ok, the adults) actions implied about the way that adults think/act, and how horrible and tragic this is, really. Also.. I think the author deserves credit for recognizing that there are complex and mitigating factors to people. This makes me happy because he is a clinical psychologist who works with autistic children, as well as an author (as well as a performing clown!), and it's nice to know that someone so insightful is in the field- not pigeonholing and labeling children, which definitely sometimes happens in the field o' psychology. But anyway. That's just one of the many issues that this book manages to bring to mind.

Oh, and in the introduction the author said he is an ingrate and has always felt that the world has owed him a living. But.. he deserves any success he has, just for this book alone, because this book is PERFECT.

And lastly, just want to say, this book is a good example of an intriguing and weird title totally working. I didn't know about this book but picked it up because the title intrigued me. I'm glad I did, and glad they changed it from "Burt". I think the author mentioned that it was a bit of an experiment in marketing, changing the title. It was a success. And I'm glad America finally published this book.

IN SUMMATION. You should read it. Seriously.

Edit: And ignore all the people who compare this book to Salinger's writing in any way. They are wrong. Maybe this book is to France what "Catcher in the Rye" is to America (in that it's widely read), but that's where the similarity ends. The writing is not Salinger-esque at all. It doesn't remind me of anything I've read before (though I certainly haven't read everything, and if there's more writing like this I'd like to find it).
Profile Image for Coos Burton.
768 reviews1,304 followers
March 28, 2015
Me enteré del libro por pura casualidad, y sin duda el título ya captó mi atención. No averigüé demasiado del mismo, y el mismo día lo compré. En cuanto a la historia, realmente no estoy muy segura de cómo sentirme. Definitivamente tiene un final muy turbio a mi parecer, pero se trata de un libro que lejos está de ser de terror, tiene más bien una estrecha relación con la salud mental, lo psicológico y el drama. Narrado por Burt, un niño al cual internan en un instituto de menores por razones que recién podremos conocer al final del libro, que como ésto seguramente les sugiera, es motivo de intriga para el lector en todo momento. Es retratado como una de las acciones más horribles y tremendas que se le pueden hacer a alguien, y por eso es imposible dejar de leer hasta que se sepa de qué va el asunto tan terrible. El libro me gustó porque realmente se lleva de una manera muy inteligente e inocente, más de una vez se torna cómico y a veces desesperante. Pero no sé, quizá deba dejarlo procesar un poco más, me dejó un extraño agujero en el pecho que no sé cómo llenar.
Profile Image for Shannon .
1,221 reviews2,164 followers
October 12, 2011
Burton Rembrandt is an intelligent and sensitive eight-year-old boy who excels at spelling. But he has been sent to The Children's Trust Residence Center for autistic, sociopathic and generally "disturbed" children after expressing his love for his friend, Jessica, in a way that has horrified his parents and her mother. Forbidden to see his parents and not allowed to read the letters from Jessica, Burt spends most of his time in the Quiet Room, writing his story on the walls. Only a young doctor, Rudyard, interested in a different approach to the children at the institution, thinks there's nothing wrong with Burt and he shouldn't be there.

Raising questions around adults misinterpreting or misunderstanding the children in their care, and the tragic feeling of these children being in effect betrayed by the adults in their lives, When I Was Five I Killed Myself is a sad and searching story about a little boy struggling to understand himself and his feelings, with no one to hep him.

Buten wrote this in the early 80s but its initial American publication, under the title Burt, was a big flop. However, the book was a huge success in France where, Buten says in his Preface, 1 out of 10 French people have read it. So 2 decades later, in 2000, it was picked up again by an American publisher.

It could be that I'm strangely naïve, or simply due to a lack of exposure to kids with special needs, but I never thought Burt was a "special needs" kid in any way. Being good at spelling and struggling to understand, filter and deal with your emotions don't seem to me to be defining qualities of autism etc., so I was surprised to see in other people's reviews this theme popping up and the book compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for example. Burt tells his story in his own voice, his own words, but I never once saw him as anything other than a "normal" eight year old boy. I'd be interested to hear what others thought on this point.

Like any story where someone is institutionalised when they shouldn't be (it's clear that Burt is no threat to anyone, is not suffering from a mental illness or anything beyond feeling confused and abandoned), it's a sad story that makes you feel trapped and claustrophobic. By the time we learn what exactly Burt did (for most of the story it's a toss-up between violence and sex), it almost doesn't even matter - it's just so painful, seeing him in this place. It's a relief that our understanding of the emotional and mental development of children has advanced from this period, and whether a child has autism or ADD or whatever, we don't lock them up.

It's easy to identify with Burt - he has a natural fear of dentists for much the same reason I feared them as a child: lack of trust. I remember going to the dentist one time, in the mobile dentist clinic truck that parked at the school, and the dentist never spoke a word to me, just attacked my baby teeth with four mercury fillings. And then there is Burt's father's attempt to teach his son to swim, resulting in Burt's fear of water - so many adults think the best way to teach kids to enjoy the water is to take them into the deep end and let go - or worse yet, to literally throw them in. It really pains me, so Rudyard's method of helping Burt - and his ability to see that Burt's seemingly senseless violence is his attempt to be denied swimming "privileges" (because kids can't always tell the truth and say what they're afraid of, especially in front of other kids) - made me simultaneously thankful and yet more sad that it was even necessary.

One thing that troubled me about the story was that, for a realistic story, what Burt did doesn't seem realistic. He is only eight, after all. If he was ten, maybe, but eight seemed a bit ... impossible. Otherwise, Burt is very believable and the situation is harrowing without being melodramatic. A thought-provoking tale.
Profile Image for Simona.
940 reviews207 followers
November 6, 2021
Ho adocchiato questo libro in biblioteca attratta dal titolo che mi ha chiamato, mi ha attirato a sè.
Questo libro mi ha aperto un mondo, un mondo che conoscevo solo in superficie, il mondo dell'autismo, di cui si parla sempre troppo poco, come fosse un tabù, un qualcosa da evitare. Un mondo che ho imparato a conoscere grazie a Burt, un bambino di 8 anni che viene rinchiuso in un istituto di neuropsichiatria infantile per colpa della stupidità degli adulti. Burt ci accompagna sin dall'inizio nel suo mondo, un mondo che comprende la scuola, il suo migliore amico Shrubs sino al momento in cui viene rinchiuso nell'istituto, dove scrive sui muri e deve confrontarsi con il dottor Nevele, interessato solo alla ricerca e il dottor Ruyard (l'alter ego di Buten, che oltre a essere scrittore, è anche psicologo che lavora con i bambini autistici e clown).
Un libro raccontato con grande semplicità e tenerezza che descrive l'incomunicabilità nel rapporto tra genitori e bambini, vittime innocenti (come Burt) dell'ignoranza adulta che preferiscono delegare piuttosto che assumersi le proprie responsabilità.
October 17, 2016

Aunque el titulo sea contundente no os asustéis.

Nos encontramos con Burt, un niño que ha sido ingresado en un centro de salud mental infantil por un motivo que hasta el final del libro no se conocerá.
Escrito desde la perspectiva del protagonista, no pierde el estilo, no defrauda, no te sientes engañado en ningún momento por su lenguaje infantil, que es ágil y bien llevado durante sus casi 200 páginas, todo un mérito.

Un libro cargado de sentimientos (tanto alegres como tristes) y lleno de momentos mágicos.

Ha destacar la edición de Blackiebooks que es de la misma calidad a la que nos tiene acostumbrados. Una nota, si os hacéis con la última edición (que no fue mi caso) obtendréis con ella un mini libro con relatos y vivencias sobre la infancia de los lectores.
Profile Image for Isabel Odriozola.
1 review1 follower
January 6, 2012
Very effective narration style: one is left with the distinct impression that one has read an account written by an actual eight-year-old - from the misinterpreted meanings of words to the clumsy sentence structure and writing style..
I read this all in one day, I could barely put it down. It's not the most gripping or thrilling book I have ever read, but it is deeply intriguing. I felt as though I was put in the position of a psychologist, analyzing the behaviour of a seemingly 'disturbed' child. The author very successfully keeps us in suspense about what 'terrible thing' Burt did to Jessica until..I think it was six pages from the end.
And on the subject of the 'terrible thing' - what a disturbing twist! But far less macabre than I was expecting, after it had been built up for so long. Deeply shocking all the same. Not in the 'I will never look at the world the same again' way, but more in the 'I cannot believe I just read that' way.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who has read, for example, The Perks of Being a Wallflower - similar build-up of suspense, similar 'reveal' near the end, and very similar in terms of the fact that both deal with youngsters getting to grips with their perceptions of the world and themselves. Fantastic!
Profile Image for Luis Morales.
67 reviews4 followers
September 11, 2021
No se si debería esperar un poco a procesar lo que acabo de leer para ser más objetivo con mi reseña.

Para no caer en juicios sobre el impacto que ha tenido el final haré mi reseña enfocada en la historia y narrativa del libro la cual, adelanto, es original y funciona a la perfección.

El libro es básicamente una historia contada en primera persona por Burt, un niño de 8 años, que por una razón desconocida para el lector hasta el final del libro (que debo decir, mantiene la intriga y la necesidad de seguir leyendo) está internado en un instituto psiquiátrico infantil. La forma en que está narrado el libro funciona muy bien, llegas a escuchar la voz de Burt un niño contándote su historia lo que la hace muy real y convincente.

Me encantó que a la vez la historia este contada en 2 tiempos: el presente que es cuando Burt está internado, y el pasado que es lo que nos muestra la convivencia de Burt con su familia, amigos y maestros.

En la historia presente, vemos como los médicos del instituto se esfuerzan por entender la psicología del niño utilizando diferentes técnicas, pero principalmente entendemos la percepción que Burt tiene de dichos médicos.

Para no hacer esto muy largo, resumo en que es un libro muy original, impactante y entretenido que vale mucho la pena leer.
Profile Image for Aviones de papel.
220 reviews62 followers
October 18, 2017

Es entretenido, me ha gustado, aunque Burt y Jessica, que son los protagonistas principales, no me han parecido demasiado creíbles en algunas ocasiones para los 8 años que se supone que tienen. El final ha estado bastante bien, lo que pasa es que el autor se pasa toda la novela mintiéndonos deliberadamente haciéndonos creer que va a ocurrir algo más dramático y perturbador.
Profile Image for Alejandro.
54 reviews
March 12, 2017
Uma obra confusa, que se perde em inúmeros momentos ao tentar recorrer a uma mescla de estilos. Não se trata de um livro ruim, mas não compreendi o hype em cima dela.
Profile Image for Deirdre Sugiuchi.
39 reviews13 followers
August 19, 2020
I heard such great things about this book but the casual racism ruined it. Yes, I understand the author was writing in 1980. So was James Baldwin.
Profile Image for EL LIBRERO DE JUDE.
131 reviews17 followers
November 18, 2022
Me bastó leer el título de este libro para querer leerlo.

Un libro que me ha sorprendido y me ha dejado reflexionando sobre algunos puntos que narra en sus casi 200 páginas.

¿Qué tan bien estamos educando a nuestros hijos?
¿Cómo y cuándo llegan el amor y la sexualidad a nuestras vidas?

Nuestro protagonista y narrador es un niño de ocho años, Burt, que se encuentra recluido en un Centro de Internamiento Infantil. No conoceremos exactamente los motivos, únicamente nos explican que le hizo algo horrible a otra niña llamada Jessica. Pero Burt no comprende que ha hecho que sea tan terrible como para merecer estar encerrado allí, tampoco consigue que los adultos que le rodean le comprendan y se pasa el tiempo entre enfadado y triste.

La historia de Burt es una dura crítica social que nos invita a reflexionar sobre la educación que estamos dando a los niños. Da la sensación de que los adultos tenemos tan claro lo que necesitan nuestros hijos que no los escuchamos y ese es precisamente el problema con Burt, no le escuchan y desde luego no comprenden sus sentimientos hacia Jessica. Vemos a un niño atrapado en un sistema que no entiende y que no le entiende, con adultos que aseguran querer ayudarle (y que probablemente así sea) pero que buscan cumplir sus objetivos sin preguntarse que es lo que Burt necesita realmente.

Un libro sumamente interesante y recomendable... Aunque creo que no a todos les puede terminar gustando.
Profile Image for Mcruz.
190 reviews12 followers
January 2, 2014
Siempre me pasa un poco lo que me ha pasado con este libro cuando leo una novela que ha tenido muy buenas críticas. Aunque me guste mucho no puedo evitar decepcionarme porque en mi mente me la había imaginado todavía mejor.
Cuando tenía 5 años me maté cuenta la historia del pequeño Burt, encerrado en un reformatorio / clínica no se sabe muy bien por qué. El lector se pregunta a sí mismo por los motivos de esta reclusión durante toda la novela. Las pistas que va dando el autor nos hacen pensar en algo terrible. Asistimos al tratamiento del pequeño Burt, vemos sus crisis de ira y su frustración al ver cómo el mundo adulto lo aliena. Pero hasta el último capítulo no sabemos qué es lo que ha hecho para estar ahí.

Lo mejor y lo peor de la novela es el punto de vista, que coincide con el del niño. Tiene un gran mérito escribir doscientas páginas sin perder nunca la perspectiva infantil, pero tengo que reconocer que en ocasiones se me ha hecho algo pesada. El autor ha incluido fragmentos de los informes médicos "robados" por Burt pero aún así la perspectiva restringida puede llegar a cansar.

En definitiva, creo que es una novela muy emotiva que puede hacernos reflexionar sobre la infancia y como la estamos convirtiendo poco a poco en una gran patología. Por eso, este libro puede ser especialmente recomendable para educadores y padres.
Profile Image for Mia Lee Libros.
50 reviews8 followers
May 7, 2020
* Pros:
- Novela ligera de leer. Lectura fácil y amena.
- Tiene toques de humor que te sacan unas carcajadas.
- Te incita a leer la historia porque ocurre un acontecimiento que quieres descubrir.

* Contra:
- La novela es fría. No me transmitió sentimientos en ningún momento.
- Los personajes protagonistas (niños de ocho años) no son creíbles. Parecen adultos.
- A veces se hace algo pesada leerla por algún capítulo que sobra.

* Opinión Personal:
Compré el libro por su portada (preciosa) y el título es muy llamativo. Es cierto que los primeros capítulos te enganchan porque te incita a conocer el por qué de algo que sucedió. Pero a lo largo de la historia, la lectura se hace pesada por algunos acontecimientos que sobran.
Como dije en los "contras", es fría. No transmite sentimientos de pena, ni sientes empatía por los personajes. Carece de alma el libro, para mi gusto.
Es una novela psicológica, no es terror ni suspenso (lo comento porque he leído cosas al respecto).
Es una pena, porque la idea era buena pero no fue bien planteada.
Me decepcionó.
Profile Image for Courtney.
Author 1 book20 followers
October 7, 2007
Branch out a little. This one's known as The Catcher of the Rye of France, because, though the author is American, AMERICA REFUSED TO PUBLISH IT (until recently). It is awesoome. It made me laugh and cry outloud. The author is a clown who works with autistic kids. He can also write.
Profile Image for Tori.
1,112 reviews81 followers
June 10, 2009
Engrossing and re-readable, while expressing some great stuff about what it is to be a child. What more can you ask for?
287 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2016
Boy institutionalized for inappropriate sexual behavior. Unconvincing voice and improbable plot.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jingle ❀彡.
71 reviews29 followers
December 20, 2016
I am so, so confused as to what I've just read. I think it's good, but it's so disturbing and confusing that I'm still trying to get my head around it all.
Profile Image for Masteatro.
456 reviews80 followers
April 12, 2019
No cabe duda de que estamos ante una historia interesante que intriga y no aburre en ningún momento.
Creo que el gran mérito que tiene aquí el autor es haber sabido dar la vuelta completamente a una historia y contarnosla desde el punto de vista de un niño de 8 años.
Es verdad que las cosas vistas desde los ojos de Gil se ven de una forma muy distinta pero, ¿acaso los adultos que nos viéramos en la situación de los padres del protagonista actuariamos de otra manera por haber leído este libro? No lo sé, o más bien, no lo creo.
A pesar del interés que me ha generado en todo momento la narración, me ha faltado saber cuál va a ser el futuro de Gil.
Profile Image for Simon Vandereecken.
Author 2 books49 followers
December 10, 2017
Pas entièrement convaincu par ce livre, qui pourtant est doté d'une grande aura. Les pensées de Burt étaient touchantes, la façon de réagir des adultes, la tristesse de ces réactions et cette solitude étaient très bien écrits, cependant le tout manquait à mes yeux de quelque chose sur quoi je n'arrive pas exactement à mettre le doigt. Bref, pas vraiment séduit même si je l'ai quand même terminé.
Profile Image for Thais.
478 reviews50 followers
December 11, 2012
Non lasciatevi assolutamente ingannare dal titolo che lascia perplessi e dalla copertina un po' anni 80: è un romanzo meraviglioso.
Il titolo originale è semplicemente "Burt", il nome del protagonista, e quello italiano è la prima frase del libro. Che parla di un bambino rinchiuso in un Centro di neuropsichiatria infantile, ma in un modo talmente coinvolgente ed ironico che è impossibile non amarlo. Burt ha fatto qualcosa di terribile a una sua compagna, e per questo è stato strappato alla sua famiglia per venire rinchiuso al Centro. Là, terrorizzato perché non capisce cosa stia succedendo, si rifiuta di parlare con il suo dottore, ha continui accessi d'ira e si sfoga scrivendo sulle pareti della Stanza del Riposo dove viene spesso mandato. È quindi lui stesso a raccontarci la sua storia, e lo fa con una tenerezza struggente, con la voce di un bambino che ha talmente tanta paura da non saperla nemmeno esprimere. Solo un dottore del centro riesce ad avvicinarglisi, ma non è il suo medico curante, quindi viene allontanato: l'ottusità degli adulti e l'incapacità di comunicare appaiono frustranti, esasperanti, terribili.
È incredibile quanto possiamo essere ottusi una volta che ci siamo creati un pregiudizio.
La storia di Burt è quella di un bambino sempre frainteso e mai ascoltato, eppure lui è sarcastico e divertente come pochi: non riesce a descrivere bene le sue sensazioni, ma le prova lo stesso, solo che nessuno fa il minimo tentativo di comprenderle, perché, come scrive il dottore "buono", "Questo paese è impregnato della malsana convinzione che un essere umano non sia una persona finché non raggiunge un'età sufficiente a votare e a bere. È falso."
E infatti Burt è decisamente una persona vera, con i suoi desideri da bambino, le sue fantasie, le bugie e la rabbia, l'ironia e la dolcezza di un piccolo essere umano in divenire.
Mi ha fatta ridere, commuovere e indignare. Leggetelo.
Profile Image for Sarah-Jeanne.
70 reviews17 followers
September 29, 2011
Le jeune Gil, âgé de 8 ans, a été admis à la Résidence Home d'Enfants les Pâquerettes dans la section psychiatrie. Il y est à cause de ce qu'il a fait à Jessica, une camarade de classe. Ce qu'il a fait est ignoble. Mais Gil ne comprend pas la portée de son geste et refuse de coopérer avec le Dr. Nevele, son psychiatre. À l'aide de ses mots d'enfants, le jeune garçon nous raconte son histoire.

La force de ce livre réside dans l'écriture de l'auteur, et bien sûr le magnifique travail du traducteur, sans quoi le discours de Gil n'aurait pu être apprécié à sa juste valeur. Le narrateur s'exprime à l'aide de "mots d'enfants", de phrases présentant plusieurs traits de l'oralité et bien sûr d'une piètre connaissance en ce qui a trait aux dialogues. Je reconnais d'ailleurs très souvent ces constructions dans des textes d'élèves ("Tu rigoles? il a dit le patrouilleur." p.23), ce qui donne tout son charme au roman.

L'auteur a su se mettre à la place d'un petit garçon de 8 ans racontant des histoires invraisemblables où son imaginaire empiète sur la réalité. Le personnage peut se promener sur la rue, raconter qu'il se fait attaquer par des bandits, alors qu'on sait très bien qu'il n'en est rien. J'avais réellement l'impression d'être dans la tête d'un enfant de 8 ans.

J'ai un peu accroché sur le contexte de traduction : l'histoire se passe clairement aux États-Unis, mais les mots utilisés pour décrire l'école font appel aux termes utilisés en France (le préfa, le brigadier), si bien qu'on se croit d'avantage en Europe qu'en Amérique. J'aurais préféré un français plus standard, moins "de France".

Somme toute, c'est un excellent roman qui vaut la peine d'être lu, ne serait-ce que pour en apprécier l'écriture.
Profile Image for Alexandria Smith.
94 reviews5 followers
May 5, 2017
Firstly let me say that my copy of this book is half the size of a regular paperback and could be considered 'pocket sized'. But does size matter? When a story packs this much punch, definitely not.

Executed from the point of view of an 8year old boy who has the misfortune of finding himself in The Children's Trust Residence Centre, a correctional home for youngsters with various psychological problems.

This book had me hooked at the tagline title 'when I was five I killed myself'... Buten writes in such a way that you realise very early on that Burton isn't an ordinary child. His intelligence and way of piecing together how he sees and experiences the world, is endearing and I found myself warm to him instantly; I found his descriptions comical throughout - even when the outlook was bleak a certain innocence was held onto.
I almost found myself wanting to protect Burton from the different adult characters dotted throughout this book who so crudely make assumptions; on who and 'what' he is, in order to put him in a psychological box (so typical that the professionals attempting to support and guide these children should have their own targets - Burton realises this in a childlike way).

There are few books a person reads that makes them think enough to change their perspective on life. However I believe 'When I was Five...' is one of them - in a nut shell- this book makes you aware of the struggle of a child, hell , ANYBODY with a difficulty; to make themselves understood in an adult world.

I love this book.
Profile Image for Michael Conland.
81 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2015
Not sure what to make of this.

Obvious comparisons can be made to Catcher in The Rye and Perks of Being A Wallflower, but the tone of this is very different because the protagonist is 8 years old.

I really like the concept and certain chapters are really well done. There are some brilliant, childish and funny observations innocently made and that aspect is great. However, a couple of areas through the middle of the book just feel a bit garbled. There were one or two chapters which just felt like a mess of words. They didn't advance the story, nor did they really tell us anything else. They felt a little out of place.

Also (and this is a bit of a spoiler), the event which is alluded to throughout the book as having caused some harm to Jessica is really quite trivial in the end. As far as I gathered, she was caused no injury, which sort of lets the whole thing down. I get the feeling that it's meant to tinge the whole plot with a sense of injustice, but it's so far from reasonable that it just put me off a bit. Would a child really be sent to a psychiatric ward for just that? Perhaps I misunderstood what had happened, but either way it fell completely flat for me at that point.

A shame really, as in places, this was really very good.
Profile Image for Sammie.
7 reviews
May 28, 2010
This is a fantastic book! Written convincingly from the perspective of linguistically-intelligent eight year old (Burt), this is a very disturbing account. There are elements of this book (Burt's character, in particular) which are left open to the reader's interpretation. This means that there is a lot to think about once you have finished reading.

This book is not suitable for everyone as it is implicitly alarming towards the end. However, I found the elements relating to the children's "Home" even more unsettling that the 'incident' itself (eg. the almost spiteful priorities of Burt's case worker; the overall lack of understanding of Burt's situation; and the lack of willingness to help Burt appropriately.)

I have read some reviews which complain of the book's abrupt ending. It is very short, but if I had the power to make it longer I would like to have read more of Burt's flashbacks to his time at school rather than to have extra chapters at the end. I think the author chose an ideal place to finish.
Profile Image for Danigerous.
140 reviews75 followers
February 12, 2011
This book is just brilliant! It's 'Girl, Interrupted' meets 'Calvin and Hobbes" and at times I even felt it like 'Alice in Wonderland' and of course it had its own character as well. It's hilarious and then it's also pretty serious, it's basically everything. It's amazing how Howard Buten managed to present it so authentically through the eyes of a kid, and not just a regular one but one with one heavy load of emotional baggage. I find it to be characteristic of a true genius and I'm just running out of words with which to express how the book made me feel. There were parts that made me laugh hard, parts that made me sad and other that really made me think. It's a multilayer book, and one that kept me glued to it, which doesn't happen that often. It's rare to find a gem of a book like that I'm glad I came across.
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