* Au début des années 1960, le Vietnam est divisé en deux entités, Nord (procommuniste) et Sud (prolibéral). La guerre commence.

I embarked on my earliest journeys at the age of sevenor at most eight. They were journeys that lasted for months, or perhaps years, I can’t recall anymore. How long does it take for a mother to read Alone in the World and The Story of Perrine to her child? My mother read to me almost every evening, because my parents only went out three or four times a year, and never had guests. It was wartime,* but that doesn’t explain itwar had only just begun and nobody imagined at the time that it would last some 15 years and that we’d face shortages of everything, especially freedom, the basic freedom to move around as we chose.

This sense of frugality was something my parents were born with, just as others live with a heart murmur or an irregular heartbeat. It was the region of their birth, the North, that had triggered this simmering anxiety.

They made the long journey to the South, where there was more sunshine, less Communism. The voyage lasted five days. At the time, we didn’t call it a “journey,” but an “exodus.”

At bedtime, my mother would decide on a number of pages, but I would beg her to carry on, and she was always happy to continue the story of Rémi the abandoned child or of Perrine Paindavoine, an orphan searching for her family. It was as if we had all the time in the world, despite the warning shots of war.

And we did. From one episode to the next, in those days before TV series, I traveled from one family to another, and from town to town, in the comfort of knowing I would fall asleep sated with emotions.

* In the early 1960s, the Vietnam War pitted the North against the South.