Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close un bambino, suo padre, un evento che ha cambiato per sempre la vita di tutti noi

This Adobe Spark is your text book to what we are going to read together. I chose an extract from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Froer.

book cover of paperback version

The Story

Schell is a super-smart nine-year old grieving the loss of his father, Thomas, who was killed in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. He's feeling depressed and anxious, and feels angry and distant towards his mother. He's been pretty traumatized by his Dad's death and is afraid of just about everything.

And he has a terrible secret. When he got home from school on September 11, he listened to voice messages his Dad left on the answering machine from the burning World Trade Center. His Dad then called one last time, but Oskar was too afraid to pick up, and the line went dead. He's been so guilty about that since it happened that he hid the answering machine and hasn't told anyone about the messages.

One day, Oskar finds a key inside a vase in his father's closet. Was the key a message from his father? The key's in a little envelope with the word Black on it. Oskar realizes this must be a name, and he decides to track down every person in New York City with the last name Black. (The Yellow Pages wishes he would just let his fingers do the walking but Oskar's scared of phones.)

None of the Blacks know anything about the key, but a Mr. Black (we never find out his first name), who's never left his apartment in 24 years, agrees to help Oskar on his search. He visits all the Blacks in all the boroughs. It takes him eight months.

Oskar goes to his Grandma's apartment and talks to her mysterious renter, who, unbeknownst to Oskar, is Oskar's Grandpa. Oskar's grandfather had abandoned his grandmother when she became pregnant with Oskar's Dad. He couldn't bear loving anyone again (he had lost everyone he loved in WWII) but wrote letters to his son throughout his life, never mailing them. He returned to the U.S. just before September 11 to reunite with his family, but too late to meet his son, Oskar's dad. Grandpa moves back in with Grandma and they resume a pretty weird relationship.

Oskar tells the renter the whole story about his Dad and the search. In the meantime, Oskar checks the phone and gets a message from Abby Black, the second Black he spoke with. It just so happens that her husband, William, knows what the key belongs to: his own dead dad's safe deposit box. Oskar's kind of disappointed that the key didn't have much to do with his own dad at all, and he returns the key to William.

Oskar finds out that all the Blacks he visited have known who he was the whole time, because his Mom found out about Oskar's quest and called them all ahead of time.

With his search ended in disappointment, Oskar decides to dig up his Dad's empty coffin and asks the renter for help. Together, they go to the cemetery. The renter brings two suitcases filled with all the unsent letters he wrote to his son and buries them in the coffin. This seems to be a turning point for Oskar, who's able to move forward a little from his grief and loss and reconnect with his mother.

Finally, in a long letter from Grandma to Oskar, we find out about how Grandpa and Grandma grew up in Dresden, Germany, and both survived the firebombing of the city, although neither of their families did. Grandma knew that Grandpa was in love with her sister, Anna, but she married him anyway. She accepts it when he comes back to her on September 11 because she doesn't want to be alone. When he tries to leave her again, they both go to live at the airport together. Yes, at the airport.

In the end, Oskar is back to square one. He hasn't come to any profound conclusions about his Dad. He has a series of photos of a man falling to his death from the World Trade Center. He puts them in reverse order, so when he flips them (making this The Saddest Flipbook Ever©) the man falls up back into the building, and Oskar can imagine his Dad is safe.

The Extract

Extract from Extremely Loud Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Froer

I read that it was the paper that kept the towers burning. All of those notepads, and Xeroxes, and printed e-mails, and photographs of kids, and books, and dollar bills in wallets, and documents in files ...all of them were fuel. Maybe if we lived in a paperless society, which lots of scientists say we’ll probably live in one day soon, Dad would still be alive. Maybe I shouldn't start a new volume. I grabbed the flashlight from my backpack and aimed it at the book. I saw maps and drawings, pictures from magazines and newspapers and the Internet, pictures I'd taken with Grandpa's camera. The whole world was in there. Finally, I found the pictures of the falling body. Was it Dad? Maybe. Whoever it was, it was somebody. I ripped the pages out of the book. I reversed the order, so the last one was first, and the first was last. When I flipped through them, it looked like the man was floating up through the sky. And if I’d had more pictures, he would’ve flown through a window, back into the building, and the smoke would've poured into the hole that the plane was about to come out of. Dad would’ve left his messages backward, until the machine was empty, and the plane would’ve flown backward away from him, all the way to Boston. He would’ve taken the elevator to the street and pressed the button for the top floor. He would've walked backward to the subway, and the subway would've gone backward through the tunnel, back to our stop. Dad would've gone backward through the turnstile, then swiped his Metro card backward, then walked home backward as he read the New York Times from right to left. He would've spit coffee into his mug, uncrushed his teeth, and put hair on his face with a razor. He would've gotten back into bed, the alarm would've rung backward, he would've dreamt backward. Then he would've gotten up again at the end of the night before the worst day. He would've walked backward to my room, whistling "I Am the Walrus” backward. He would've gotten into bed with me.

We would've looked at the stars on my ceiling, which would've pulled back their light from our eyes. I'd have said "Nothing" backward. He'd have said "Yeah, buddy?" backward. I'd have said "Dad ?" backward, which would have sounded the same as "Dad" forward. He would have told me the story of the Sixth Borough, from the voice in the can at the end to the beginning, from "I love you" to "Once upon a time..." We would have been safe.

Traduzione del testo

Estratto da MOLTO FORTE, INCREDIBILMENTE VICINO di Jonathan Saphran Froer

"Ho letto che è stata la carta a tenere acceso l’incendio nelle torri. Tutti quei quaderni, le risme di fogli per fotocopie, le stampate delle e-mail, le foto dei figli, i libri, i dollari nei portafogli, e i documenti negli archivi… Erano combustibile. Forse se vivessimo in una società senza carta, come un sacco di scienziati dicono che un giorno succederà, papà sarebbe ancora vivo.

Ho preso la torcia dal mio zaino e l’ho puntata contro il libro. Ho visto le cartine, i disegni, le foto prese dai giornali e riviste e da internet, e quelle che avevo scattato io con la macchina del nonno. C’era tutto il mondo lì dentro. Finalmente ho trovato le foto del corpo che cadeva.

Era papà?


Chiunque fosse, era qualcuno.

Ho strappato le pagine dal libro.

Le ho rimesse in ordine al contrario, in modo che l’ultima fosse la prima e la prima fosse l’ultima.

Le ho sfogliate velocemente e sembrava che l’uomo stesse alzandosi in cielo.

E se avessi avuto altre fotografie, sarebbe volato dentro una finestra e dentro la torre, e il fumo sarebbe stato aspirato nel buco da cui l’aereo stava per uscire.

Papà avrebbe lasciato i suoi messaggi a rovescio finché la segreteria sarebbe stata vuota, e l’aereo sarebbe volato indietro, fino a Boston.

Papà avrebbe preso l’ascensore per scendere in strada e schiacciato il bottone per l’ultimo piano.

Avrebbe camminato all’indietro fino al metrò e il metrò sarebbe andato indietro nel tunnel fino alla nostra fermata.

Papà avrebbe superato il tornello all’indietro e poi fatto sfilare al contrario la sua tessera della metropolitana, e sarebbe tornato a casa camminando all’indietro mentre leggeva il New York Times da destra a sinistra.

Avrebbe sputato il caffè nella tazza, si sarebbe sporcato i denti e si sarebbe messo i peli in faccia con il rasoio.

Sarebbe tornato a letto, la sveglia avrebbe suonato al contrario, e lui avrebbe fatto i sogni al contrario.

Poi si sarebbe alzato alla fine della sera prima del giorno più brutto.

Sarebbe indietreggiato in camera mia fischiettando al contrario I Am the Walrus.

Sarebbe stato nel letto con me.

Avremmo guardato le stelle sul soffitto, che avrebbero allontanato la loro luce dai nostri occhi.

Io avrei detto: «Niente» alla rovescia.

Lui avrebbe detto: «Sì, pulce?» alla rovescia.

Io avrei detto: «Papà?» alla rovescia, che non è così diverso da “papà” detto normalmente.

Mi avrebbe raccontato la storia del sesto distretto, dalla voce nel barattolo fino all’inizio, da «Ti amo» a «Una volta, ma tanto tempo fa…»

E saremmo stati salvi."

the movie
the movie
Jonathan Safran Froer, the author of the book

Background: what happened ?

At the World Trade Center (WTC) site in Lower Manhattan, 2,753 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were intentionally crashed into the north and south towers or as a result of the crashes. Of those who perished during the initial attacks and the subsequent collapses of the towers, 343 were New York City firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers and 37 were officers at the Port Authority. The victims ranged in age from two to 85 years. Approximately 75-80% of the victims were men. (from CNN website)


Photos vere taken from the Internet, no infringement intended, for educational use.

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