Excerpt from Nothing by Janne Teller, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Janne Teller

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  • First Published:
    Feb 2010, 240 pages
    Mar 2012, 240 pages

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Cindy Anderson

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Pierre Anthon lived with his father and the rest of the commune in an old farmhouse at Tæringvej number 25. Pierre Anthon’s father and the commune were all hippies who were still stuck in ’68. That was what our parents said, and even though we didn’t really know what it meant, we said it too. In the front yard by the street there was a plum tree. It was a tall tree, old and crooked, leaning out over the hedge to tempt us with its dusty red Victoria plums, which none of us could reach. Other years we’d jump to get at the plums. We stopped doing that. Pierre Anthon left school to sit in the plum tree and pelt us with unripe plums. Some of them hit home. Not because Pierre Anthon was aiming at us, because that wasn’t worth it, he proclaimed. It was just chance that made it so.

He yelled at us too.

“It’s all a waste of time,” he yelled one day. “Everything begins only to end. The moment you were born you began to die. That’s how it is with everything.”

“The Earth is four billion, six hundred million years old, and you’re going to reach one hundred at the most!” he yelled another day. “It’s not even worth the bother.”

And he went on, “It’s all a big masquerade, all make-believe and making out you’re the best at it.”

Nothing had ever indicated that Pierre Anthon was the smartest among us, but suddenly we all knew he was. He was onto something. Even if none of us cared to admit it. Not to our parents, not to our teachers, not to one another. Not even to ourselves. We didn’t want to live in the world Pierre Anthon was telling us about. We were going to amount to something, be someone.

The smiling door wasn’t going to lure us.

No, sir. No way!

That was why we came up with the idea. “We” is perhaps an exaggeration, because it was Pierre Anthon who got us going.

It was one morning when Sofie had been hit in the head by two hard plums one after another, and she was so mad at Pierre Anthon for just sitting there in his tree, disheartening all of us.

“All you ever do is sit there gawking. Is that any better?” she yelled.

“I’m not gawking,” Pierre Anthon replied calmly. “I’m contemplating the sky and getting used to doing nothing.”

“The heck you are!” Sofie yelled angrily, and hurled a stick up at Pierre Anthon in the plum tree. It landed in the hedge, way beneath him.

Pierre Anthon laughed and hollered so loud they could have heard him all the way up at the school.

“If something’s worth getting upset about, then there must be something worth getting happy about. And if something’s worth getting happy about, then there must be something that matters. But there isn’t!” He raised his voice a notch and roared, “In a few years you’ll all be dead and forgotten and diddly-squat, nothing, so you might just as well start getting used to it!”

That was when we understood we had to get Pierre Anthon out of that plum tree.

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Excerpted from Nothing by Janne Teller. Copyright © 2010 by Janne Teller. Excerpted by permission of Atheneum Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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