Few know what it’s like to survive a mass shooting. Erwan Larher knows all too well.
On November 13th, 2015, Larher was one of 1,500 concert-goers at the Bataclan theatre in Paris who came to watch the Eagles of Death Metal perform. 90 people were killed when three gunmen opened fire that night, a tragedy that spread throughout France and sent shockwaves around the world.
The day started as normally as any.
“It was a very ordinary day,” says Larher, a native of Ballans, France. “I’ve seen maybe twenty or thirty gigs at the Bataclan before.”
He arrived late to the concert venue and found his favourite spot, right next to the sound booth.
“One or two times, I wondered if I should go closer to the stage, but I said to myself, ‘Just wait. Wait for the best songs.’ So I wait, and then suddenly, I hear those ‘pops,’ you know? And I think it’s part of the show. I think everyone did,” he says. “But it’s weird, because I see some plaster falling from the ceiling on my left. And then at the same time, I hear someone yelling, ‘Lay down! Lay down!’”
That night in Paris, 137 people died; an additional 413 were injured. Within moments of the attack beginning, Larher was shot.
For many, it sparked renewed fears around terrorism and the rise of global violence. For Larher, a writer, it’s the basis of his latest book, The Book I Didn’t Want to Write (originally released in French as Le livre que je ne voulais pas écrire).
“It never came to my mind to make a book out of it. But then, a few months later, I started to think and discuss with friends of mine — writers — and they told me, ‘You have to write this book. You’re a writer. You have to find the words to tell us what it was and what you felt.’ And I understood that maybe literature has something to say about it, a perspective to bring,” he says.
For weeks, Larher recalls, he would be flooded with requests for comment from news organizations who were reporting on the shootings. Initially, he says, the subject was too emotional to put to words.
“We have to think, and thinking takes time. And emotion is the contrary of thinking,” he says. “Some things are too important to be abandoned to emotion.”
“To me, those three guys, they are symptoms. It maybe could have been me, if I was not born in the right place,” Larher adds. “They are monsters. No doubt about that. But they were not born monsters; they became monsters. And the purpose of my book is maybe to question that: how did this happen?”
In The Book I Didn’t Want to Write, Larher recreates the events of November 13th, both from his perspective, along with the imagined perspectives of the terrorists. He also provides space for his family and friends to share perspective around what it was like to witness the news unfold and wonder about his fate. Ultimately, it’s an affirmation of the importance of love.
“What can gather us is love. It’s such a strong link,” he says. “And the world today, I think, is suffering from a lack of humanity and love.”