Little eyes

I have post-its over the camera on my laptop and my tablet – but not on my phone. Which seems silly as that’s the one that goes everywhere. Now I’m in more and more video meetings, the post-its fall off more, especially from the tablet; I find the little coloured squares lying around the flat, pick them up, stick them back on, and if they don’t stick anymore, put a new one on. And often change the colour. The eye of my phone, however, gazes out at the ceiling, or from wherever it’s been laid to rest. Sticking something over it is just not practical. Turning it face down hasn’t become a habit. And putting it in its “grandad case” (the kind that shuts like a little wallet and fits a couple of bank cards, mine has a magnet to hold it in) is mostly redundant when you don’t go out much, and you’ve moved the bank cards anyway to reduce the risk of cross-infection from till to ear.

What if it wasn’t a phone, but a cute little robot? I’d definitely get the dragon one, no contest. No pink bunnies or fluffy pandas for me, although the crow would have a certain Ravenclaw appeal. It would follow me around and not shed hair or need walking (key factors in lack of actual pet in current household). But it would get underfoot. And you can’t talk to the person behind the camera.

After all, there are two sorts of people, the kind who like to watch and the kind who like to be watched. If you’re the former, you can buy a connection code and be the eyes behind the camera. You don’t know where you’ll end up – will your little “eyes” open on a tropical island or in an inner-city high-rise? You can’t talk, but you can probably work out ways of communicating – ouiji-board style, Morse code, the keeper holding a post-it with contact details on up to the camera. And if you’re enterprising, you could buy up some connections, test them for a while, and sell them on to people who are prepared to pay to see what, who, they choose to.

You can see how this could be both awfully addictive and also go terribly, terrifyingly wrong. In an infinite variety of ways.

Which is what Samanta Schweblin’s fabulous and timely book is all about. OneWorld has a knack for picking out cracking stories in other languages, so I knew it would be good, but I didn’t know Little Eyes would be this good – Megan McDowell’s translation is seamless. I read the review online, beamed it to the Kindle app on that tablet straight away, and finished it in record time.

I strongly advise you to do the same. This book is brilliant, and full of questions about how we live now. While I was reading it, the post-it fell off again. I put a new one on, once I got round to it…

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