Penguin, £7.99, 240pp from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
3,096 Days, By Natascha Kampusch, trans. Jill Kreuer
Friday 08 October 2010
Twelve years ago, the 10-year old Natascha Kampusch was walking to school when she was snatched from a Vienna street and shoved into the back of a white delivery van. Eight years later, in 2006, she reappeared in a small suburban back garden, having fled the hermetically sealed cellar where her captor, Wolfgang Priklopil, had kept her hostage.
The basic facts of Kampusch's case have long been crawled over by the world's media, but her memoir finally see the victim herself (with the aid of co-writers Heike Gronemeier and Corinna Milborn) reclaiming the story as her own. Within days of Kampusch's liberation, journalists hunted through her shocking narrative, hoping for evidence that perhaps Kampusch herself had in some way encouraged Priklopil in his depravities and excesses. The problem for the press, and for readers, was that Kampusch was a complex and intelligent young woman with a complicated story to tell. At the start of her account, she freely admits that, even before the abduction, she was a far from happy child. The youngest daughter of divorced parents, she was frequently slapped and put down. Lonely and bored, she took to bingeing on Coke and packets of Bounty bars. Moments before her abduction, she says, she remembers considering throwing herself under a car.
But then began the more brutal and miserable era as Priklopil's manacled plaything. A former Siemens engineer, Priklopil had spent a long time preparing the tiny room (five metres by five metres) hidden beneath a trapdoor in the garage. During the early years of her imprisonment, Kampusch was infantilised - spoon-fed and given a toy train-track to play with - but with on the onset of puberty was made to clean the house without underwear, regularly beaten and starved. Eventually she was made to share his bed.
It's hard not to feel cast in the role of voyeur as the peculiar details of Kampusch's detention unravel, but her preternaturally adult insight into Priklopil's delicate psychological state transforms this highly articulate account into something else. Answering those who would accuse her of collusion, she claims that her attempt to empathise was only a very natural urge to establish a kind of normality where there was none. In the end, it was her understanding of her captor that enabled her to escape - her childhood destroyed, but her life intact.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year