The compelling and moving narrative of a young girl caught by the tides of marching armies during the siege of Budapest in 1945.
Told with calm compulsive force, and with an intimacy and maturity that defies the author's youth, I am fifteen is a poignant coming-of-age memoir, and a remarkable tale of ordinary lives destroyed by war.
Budapest in early 1945: the siege - which was to kill some 40,000 civilians - raged around Christine Arnothy, her family and the various inhabitants of their building. Hiding in cellars, venturing out in a desperate search for food and water only when the noise of battle momentarily receded, they wondered if the Germans from the West or the Russians from the East would be victorious and under which they would fare best.
Praying she would survive, and mourning the loss of some of her fellow refugees, Christine found solace in her writing - in pencil on a small notepad in the cellar - and dreamt of becoming a writer at the end of the war.
Her subsequent adventures include a dramatic escape over the frontier into Austria, to Vienna and freedom (or so she imagined); then the difficult decision to leave her parents in an Allied refugee camp, while she searched for a new life in Paris.
`Outstanding in the literature of war. It has the abruptness, shadows and tensions of the best films, but superimposed is the knowledge that the cruelty and destruction are true.'
`She is one of the few writers capable of describing what it feels like to be an innocent sufferer under Communism. It is well worth reading for its brilliant descriptions of past horrors and present misery. She has told this story with evident honesty and fine reporting skill.'
`This book has won the Prix Verite. There could not have been a better choice for it merits this honour and will take its place among the best books written on the war.'
Die Andere Zeitung, Hamburg
`One has the feeling on reading this book that nothing in it is false or invented, but that it is absolutely sincere.'
Il Ragguagio Librario, Italy
`A great work, human and profound.'
La Cite, Brussels
`She writes with simplicity and an overwhelming sincerity.
Livres de France
`Moving and terrifying.'
Arts et Lettres
Christine Arnothy, daughter of an Austro-Hungarian father and a German-Polish mother, was born in Budapest in 1930. She now lives in Switzerland.