At the end of the interview in Year Fifteen, Kirsten and François have an off-the-record conversation sparked by the question, “When you think of how the world’s changed in your lifetime, what do you think about?” Kirsten’s answer is immediately, “I think of killing.” François responds that he did it once too, as he was surprised in the woods. He asks Kirsten how many, and she responds by showing him her two knife tattoos.
We learn here explicitly that Kirsten has been required to take other lives in order to survive. Thus, she thinks of killing when she thinks of the way that the world has changed, since killing someone else is something that few people had to do before the collapse.
At this point the Symphony has been staying in New Petoskey for two weeks, and François has interviewed almost everyone in the symphony. He has realized that all of the stories were the same in two variations: “Everyone else died, I walked, I found the Symphony. Or, I was very young when it happened, I was born after it happened, I have no memories or few memories of any other way of living, and I have been walking all my life.”
Kirsten is apparently not the only one whose memory was shaken or fractured by the collapse. François notes that many people who survived had a similar experience of walking and wandering amidst overwhelming death.
After Kirsten gives the answer of killing to François’ question, she turns the question back on him. He says that he thinks about his apartment in Paris. Kirsten thinks about killing as symbolic of the change in the world because in the old world (for her) you never had to hurt anyone. This was especially true for François, who was a Copywriter before the collapse. As a writer after the collapse, François has created a library, where he has accumulated a collection of books, magazines, and pre-collapse newspapers. Only recently did he get the idea to publish his own post-collapse paper.
François’ symbol of change is his apartment, which signifies the lack of comfort and ease in the new world. Kirsten’s takes a more violent turn, as she emphasizes the harsh requirements of fighting to stay alive, even at the cost of taking other lives. François’ library is an effort to preserve the history of the collapse itself, as well as history of the world before civilization ended.
As Kirsten looks around the library, François asks her how she got her scar, to which she replies that she has no memory of receiving it. Her brother Peter never told her while he was still alive, because he said it was better if she didn’t remember. Her brother, she says, was sad after the collapse, because he remembered everything. He ultimately stepped on a nail and died of infection.
Here we see an example of a situation in which it is good not to remember something. Kirsten feels lucky to not remember the trauma that created her scar. Her brother’s death is an example of how seemingly simple aspects of civilization, like antibiotics, are so important but also so taken for granted.
As Kirsten gets up to leave, François notes the knife handles gleaming in her belt. This small woman, he thinks, is lethal, walking with knives through every day of her life. He has heard in his other interviews that she has incredible knife-throwing abilities, and can apparently hit the center of targets blindfolded.
As the interview ends, François emphasizes Kirsten’s deadly ability, possibly foreshadowing her use of the knives later on in the book.
Before she goes, François asks Kirsten why she didn’t want the last part of the interview recorded, as he has heard many confessions of that kind. But Kirsten collects celebrity gossip clippings, so she understands permanent records. She doesn’t want to be remembered for violence, knife-throwing, or killing. The interview officially over, the two walk to hear the Symphony’s performance of music for the evening.
Because she collects gossip magazines, Kirsten understands that publications can affect how someone is remembered. Kirsten doesn’t want the violence or the killings she was forced into in order to survive to be the things that she is remembered for in the future.