The Book That Saved a Life (2:53 min)
Curator: Mark Dimunation
Week of: September 23, 2009
Maurice Hamonneau, a French legionnaire and the last survivor of an artillery attack near Verdun in the First World War, lay wounded and unconscious for hours after the battle. When he regained his senses, he found that a copy of the 1913 French pocket edition of Kim by Rudyard Kipling had deflected a bullet and saved his life by a mere twenty pages.
Hamonneau's reward was a Croix de Guerre and the medal brought about a close friendship with Kipling. Hearing that the English writer was mourning the loss of his son John, who had served with the Irish Guards, the young Frenchman was moved to send the medal and the torn copy of Kim to Kipling. Kipling was overwhelmed and insisted that he would return the book and medal if Hamonneau were ever to have a son. Hannonneau did, and named him Jean in honor of John Kipling. Kipling returned the items with a charming letter to young Jean, advising him to always carry a book of at least 350 pages in the left breast pocket. The book eventually went to auction and arrived at the Library via the Colt-Kipling Collection.
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