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During World War II, previously pampered 13-year-old twin boys are sent to live with their cruel, alcoholic grandmother. They must learn how to survive alone in their new, rural surroundings and decide that the only way to cope in this inhumane world of adults and war is to become completely unfeeling and merciless. So they begin their own series of studies: They fortify their spirits by reading the Bible and learning foreign languages. They practice hardening their bodies and minds, holding their hands over flames, and cutting themselves and pouring alcohol onto their wounds. They desensitize themselves to insults and learn to ignore sentiment and love. The twins keep a precise written record of all they have witnessed during the war in a notebook. Based on Agota Kristof's famous novel.