NOMINATED FOR REPUBLIC OF CONSCIOUNESS PRIZE, 2023
‘He began to understand that his present life was not a life at all, but something that had to be endured before a life could commence. It was as though he was before a window, and could see life, but could not touch it. What he needed, he thought, was to be given the opportunity to live. For he would do great things, he thought, when he had the opportunity.’
It is 1935 and a small boy is found in a mine in what is known as the Belgian Congo. It is a time of ferment; nefarious forces are at play. Against this backdrop, the boy’s discovery draws the attention of men of distinction across the globe – scientists, politicians and army men. Soon enough a race begins to bring the boy into safe custody. After a tortuous journey by train through the continent of Africa, the boy travels by ship to New York, where he is taken into the care of the United States Army. From here our diminutive hero will become swept up in a narrative not of his own making, a narrative that will lead him into the heart of one of the most devastating events of the twentieth century.
Audacious in its conceit, thrillingly readable and profoundly humane, Little Boy is a novel of science and politics, of men and war, of compassion and becoming. In prose of baffled grace, it weaves a path through some of the darkest moments in our collective history -- moments all too depressingly reminiscent of the here and now. Its ending will leave you, like its protagonist, suspended in mid-air, stunned by the awful things that men have put forth into the world.
"Little Boy is an extraordinary novel, audacious and poignant and superbly well-written. It imagines the unimaginable, finds innocence in awfulness. This is what the literary novel is capable of, and so rarely pulls off."
-- Andrew Cowan, author of Your Fault.
"Bold, audacious, written with surgical precision, quiet lyricism and incredible assurance. This novel hurt my feelings and made me think deeply. As Little Boy says, 'All the time he had spent in institutions, sheltered from the world, when in reality there was no greater threat to him than the institutions themselves.'"
-- Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti.
John Smith lives in Australia. Little Boy is their first book.
Little Boy by John Smith