Natascha Kampusch: 3096 dage, Gyldendal 2011. (English Title: 3096 Days).
Everyone knows the story of Natascha Kampusch. It was all over the world when this 18 years old girl suddenly appeared out of thin air, after having been disappeared for 8 years – 3096 days to be precise.
Kampusch was abducted when she was 10 years old and walking to school. Her kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, kidnapped her and told her that he was doing it for some other people. When these never showed up, Priklopil took her home and put her in a tiny cellar and shut her in. She spent 6 months here before she was allowed up into his house the first time.
Slowly, Kampusch was allowed out of the cellar more and more often but always with Priklopil watching her. In the beginning, he was rather kind to her – gave her whatever she asked for and since she thought that he was keeping her safe from a group of child molesters, she grew somewhat close to him. But as she grew up, he started changing and got more and more abusive to her. He used her to clean his home, to cook dinner for him, to help him with various building projects and whenever she didn’t live up to his expectations or did exactly what he told him to do, she was beaten or kicked or both, put in the cellar, denied food, denied light, denied everything.
As time went by, her prison became more and more in her mind. She believed that he had wired explosives to all windows and doors, she believed that he would kill anyone she came in contact with if she tried to escape. Even when he pushed her outside the door and told her to run, she was more scared that anyone would see her naked beaten body than she was staying with Priklopil. Even when he took her outside the house on shopping trips, she was too scared, to beaten down, to dare try to run away. And the one time she dared to try to speak someone, the woman was Dutch and didn’t understand a word.
Kampusch is very frank and open about most of her captivity. However, she doesn’t want to go into the sexual abuse she suffered. I’m not sure how I feel about this – in some ways, I can understand that she wants to keep a few things to herself. On the other hand, when you read a book like this, you want to know what happened, all of it. You want every detail. And she does provide that to a certain extent – for instance by including a week from her diary where she details all the abuse she suffered in just one week< which is absolutely heart breaking. To think about such a young girl suffering so much. The most frightening part of it however is that she has lots of bruises and injuries that she can’t even remember how she got.
But this leads me to wonder why we read books like this. As I sad, you do it because you want to know what happened, you want all the gory details. And therefore, you get disappointed when she doesn’t come clean about the sexual abuse. But why? Why do you want or need to know more than what the media reported?
According to Natascha Kampusch, we want to see what true evil is like – and probably be comforted by the fact that true evil can be conquered. But as she points out throughout the book, Priklopil wasn’t all bad. She says she tried to focus on the good parts in order to survive while still keeping in mind that he wasn’t doing her a favor when he kidnapped her, as he tried to convince her he was. She says she has been almost ridiculed for not seeing him as the epitome of evil and for not accepting that she was suffering from Stockholm syndrome – a label, she hates. I don’t think her arguments against the label is persuasive enough but I do accept that she had to find something good to cling to and some way to exist with this man as he was the only human being she had any contact with for 7 years.
I’m fascinated by the fact that people like Natascha Kampusch who has been held in captivity for so long, are brainwashed by their captors – and afterwards, when they are free, they have to be brainwashed to be able to exist in what the rest of us perceive as the normal world. But just because there are more of us than of her, it doesn’t mean that our way of looking at the world is the right one. She might be able to see some things more clearly than we can, because she has been away from it for so long.
That being said, of course she needed help to heal herself. To be able to live in the world outside of Priklopil’s property. But unfortunately, the help she has received makes this book read in parts as a psychoanalysis of why she did what she did or why she behaved in certain ways. There’s no doubt that she has been through a lot of therapy – and that shines very clearly through in the book. Too clearly, in my opinion. I would prefer a more raw approach, without lists of symptoms people suffer after having been kept in isolation and without a sometimes detached, psychological explanation.
I’m still not completely sure why I wanted to read this book – but I wanted to ever since I heard about it. Of course the main part is curiosity – I want to know how he did it, what he did exactly and how she survived it. I don’t have a perception of Priklopil as the face of evil – I see him as a somehow damaged human being with some kind of mental disability. As Natascha Kampusch do.
Of course, her being able to see him this way is much more impressive.