By Colum McCann
Review by John Dickson
A shape with an infinitely countable number of sides, that’s an apeirogon.
This is the metaphor that McCann straps to the Middle Eastern mire-tangle of the Israel/Palestine ‘situation’. Two men, one from each side of the fence, lose a daughter to this relentless conflict that defies solution. Israeli Rami’s 13-year-old Smadar was shopping in a candy store when a suicide bomber went about his evil work. Abir, Palestinian Bassam’s 10-year-old dies when a border policeman’s rubber bullet smashes the back of her skull. True.
McCann has ‘novelised’ actual events endured by these men, their families and their communities. The two men reach across this seemingly impossible divide and cement their brotherhood in an organisation started by Abir: Combatants for Peace.
McCann takes us on a journey that ranges through time, place, the difficulties of history, the implacability of religion, the intransigence of ideology, of politics, details of armaments, the flight patterns of migratory birds. Presented across 1001 numbered chunks, a nod to the great middle eastern epic of storytelling, 1001 Arabian Nights, McCann offers us a new way of seeing and feeling just what is going on here, what has gone on here. Here is fresh light.
McCann’s book is longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. He is a shoo-in.