Apeirogon
From the National Book Award-winning and bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin comes an epic novel rooted in the real-life friendship between two men united by loss.Colum McCann's most ambitious work to date, Apeirogon--named for a shape with a countably infinite number of sides--is a tour de force concerning friendship, love, loss, and belonging.Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of conflict that colors every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on, to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend, to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate.Their worlds shift irreparably after ten-year-old Abir is killed by a rubber bullet and thirteen-year-old Smadar becomes the victim of suicide bombers. When Bassam and Rami learn of each other's stories, they recognize the loss that connects them and they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.McCann crafts Apeirogon out of a universe of fictional and nonfictional material. He crosses centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature, and politics in a tale both heartbreaking and hopeful. Musical, cinematic, muscular, delicate, and soaring, Apeirogon is a novel for our time.

Apeirogon Details

TitleApeirogon
Author
ReleaseFeb 25th, 2020
PublisherRandom House Audio Publishing Group
ISBN-139780307878045
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary

Apeirogon Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    Everything about this book is extraordinary. I was not surprised since Colum McCann is one of my favorite writers. I’ve read all of his published books. This book though, is different from anything I’ve read by him. McCann’s words best describe it : “This is a hybrid novel with invention at its core, a work of storytelling which, like all storytelling, weaves together elements of speculation, memory, fact, and imagination....” The heart of the book is the real story of Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Everything about this book is extraordinary. I was not surprised since Colum McCann is one of my favorite writers. I’ve read all of his published books. This book though, is different from anything I’ve read by him. McCann’s words best describe it : “This is a hybrid novel with invention at its core, a work of storytelling which, like all storytelling, weaves together elements of speculation, memory, fact, and imagination....” The heart of the book is the real story of Rami Elhanan, an Israeli whose thirteen year old daughter Smadar was killed by suicide bombers and Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, father of ten year old Abir who was shot after leaving a candy store. Their friendship is forged on shared sorrow and on empathy, meeting through organizations for grieving families, both Israeli and Palestinian, working together sharing their stories with each other and the world. This book is breathtaking, literally in the detailed descriptions of what happened to these two young girls, breathtaking in how it conveys the depth of grief of their families and equally in the illustration of empathy and in the unique structure. It’s not a straightforward narrative. It’s an all encompassing blend of stories about historical figures, quotes from literature, biblical references, art and science and even a few photographs, none of which are more affecting than those of Abir and Smadar. The linkages are both fascinating and jolting. And the birds, so many images - real, sculptured , none more affecting than the dove. Everything is connected. Everything has meaning. Everything is related to the deaths of ten year old Abir and thirteen year old Smadar, to the deaths of those who were killed with them, to the deaths of those who were killed before them and those who we’re killed after them, to those who happened to be Israeli, and those who happened to be Palestinian and to the Holocaust victims, to all these human beings. It’s epic in scope. I read it slowly because I didn’t want to miss a single word or a connection between people past and present, between events past and present, between things past and present and the heart of this story. The emotional impact is quite stunning. The book moves around in time, from their pasts to their presents to the moments that their daughters were killed. This book is as cerebral as it is emotional and the combined effect leaves me in awe of Colum McCann. The prose is unparalleled. It’s the kind of book that left me changed. I highly recommended it to fans of the author and to anyone who is looking for an absolutely unique reading experience. My favorite of the year and definitely one of my all time favorites. Of course, I had to find out more about Bassam and Rami and I read numerous articles, interviews, etc and it was obvious that McCann more than does justice to their stories. It’s worth taking the time to read and listen to some of these in their own words . What hope, what empathy is possible even after the impossibly horrific thing that happened to their daughters. I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley.
    more
  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    An eye opening epic blend of fact and fiction from Colum McCann, ambitiously structured with its echoes and inspirations of 1001 nights and by the Apeirogon, a shape with a countably infinite number of sides. The non-linear narrative interweaves the tragedies that befall two fathers on different sides of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and the endless cycle of the horrors and terrors of history repeating itself. Rami Elhanan, an Israeli, lost his daughter, 13 year old Smadar, killed by a suicide An eye opening epic blend of fact and fiction from Colum McCann, ambitiously structured with its echoes and inspirations of 1001 nights and by the Apeirogon, a shape with a countably infinite number of sides. The non-linear narrative interweaves the tragedies that befall two fathers on different sides of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and the endless cycle of the horrors and terrors of history repeating itself. Rami Elhanan, an Israeli, lost his daughter, 13 year old Smadar, killed by a suicide bomber and Bassan Aranin, a Palestinian, lost his 10 year old daughter, Abir, shot outside her school by a member of the border police. The griefstricken fathers find a commonality in their grief, a humanity and spawn connections across the political divide, driven by hope and straining to break that cycle of death, grief, brutality and violence of the conflict. McCann's inventive and speculative narrative is all encompassing, fragmentary, apparently random pieces of an extraordinary, sensitive, disparate storytelling and facts, of history, the arts, religion, mythology, poetry, nature, mathematics, memory, philosophy, literature, birds, and so much more, like tiny pieces of a huge complex jigsaw puzzle that slowly builds a picture of connections. Profound, emotionally heartbreaking, unforgettable and tearfully moving, yet driven by hope, this is an unmissable and original read. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC.
    more
  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    Not sure yet how to frame my thoughts - but I honestly almost stopped reading completely at 13%!Until then - I was reading this book diligently- closely - learning and FASCINATED about the migration of birds.But then... that 13% period came. I actually felt PHYSICALLY SICK with bile in my throat. I thought I ‘was’ going to vomit. - my body reacted THAT much....Not sure how to rate it - 5 stars in parts 3 stars in other parts ...I’m left thinking there ARE some books best NOT read - books Not sure yet how to frame my thoughts - but I honestly almost stopped reading completely at 13%!Until then - I was reading this book diligently- closely - learning and FASCINATED about the migration of birds.But then... that 13% period came. I actually felt PHYSICALLY SICK with bile in my throat. I thought I ‘was’ going to vomit. - my body reacted THAT much....Not sure how to rate it - 5 stars in parts 3 stars in other parts ...I’m left thinking there ARE some books best NOT read - books DEFINITELY NOT HEALTHY for some readers. I didn’t need this story to know how FUCKING PAINFUL WAR HAS BEEN BETWEEN TWO NATIONS..I was in Israel during the Yom Kippur War. I lived in a bomb shelter for part of it. I have CLOSE FAMILY MEMBERS ( crazy Americans who immigrated to Israel at a time when the CITIES were at HIGH TIME DANGEROUS- when Jewish temples all over America were pulling their travel plans for the Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids - not letting them travel to their beloved country)...Yep - I worried sick for a couple of years - for the safety of my cousins - permanently choosing to live Israel. But...I didn’t want or need to read about ZAKA!!! Really? Did I need to read about those GHASTLY DETAILS??? - I already knew what ZAKA does? ZAKA — is a team of people who collect body parts for burial. They assembled the corpses bagged them in plastic - and hand them over to the Israeli police. Isn’t that enoughinformation? I can figure out myself that it’s bloody - and AWFUL....AND....“They were meticulous. Rigorous. Precise. Special care was taken not to mix the blood of victims and the bombers”. THIS PART IS HEARTFELT- and wonderful - and I THANK THESE PEOPLE FOR THEIR WORK.... but why McCann felt it necessary to go ‘further’ into graphics about a civilian finding an eyeball .. MY GOD.......I angrily wanted to toss my book to the wall ( but I didn’t feel like breaking my kindle, ether).. so I suppressed my aggression. For me..... it would’ve been enough for me to know more about the two precious little girls who are killed - One from Israel- one from Palestine — and learn how their fathers came together - and learning about the migration- was literally and figuratively brilliant— but parts were unnecessary and too graphic for my well being. The acknowledgment page was very moving and important to me...though.... It wasn’t only Colum McCann’s talent - I thought about - or this story - with scenes I wished I ‘hadn’t’ read - but I sat thinking about the MANY people -from whom McCann could never acknowledged or thank enough.The unsung heroes - community of ‘people’ who contributed facts, and inspiration to McCann are people I’d like to light a candle too. I guess I’ll give this book 4 stars ... but I need a few days to recover. It was THAT DISTURBING for me. So — who doesn’t need this book? - people who know war first hand. People like myself who lived in Israel during a war .There are reasons that some things are best not talked about to the masses.
    more
  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    I apologize to the people who loved and raved about this book! It is a first read for me by this author.Many parts I was very taken with the writing, but the format, and the seemingly random streams of thought..I know they all connected in ways, but damn my head hurts.I appreciated the story and the sadness of the loss these two men endured, tragically losing both their daughters.. and I also love reading about this part of the world, I just wish it had been in a regular novel type format. A I apologize to the people who loved and raved about this book! It is a first read for me by this author.Many parts I was very taken with the writing, but the format, and the seemingly random streams of thought..I know they all connected in ways, but damn my head hurts.I appreciated the story and the sadness of the loss these two men endured, tragically losing both their daughters.. and I also love reading about this part of the world, I just wish it had been in a regular novel type format. A very difficult reading experience for me!Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing for the ARC!
    more
  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    First 5 star read of 2020!Perhaps not perfect, but certainly brilliant, thought provoking, emotionally charged and timely. Apeirogon is not a linear narrative. Told in 1000 short segments, it tells the story of two men who have lost daughters to violence — one is Israeli and the other is Palestinian. This is based on a true story. Rami and Bassam are joined together in their grief and through the united project of finding a road to peace. The fragments of McCann’s brilliant narrative go back and First 5 star read of 2020!Perhaps not perfect, but certainly brilliant, thought provoking, emotionally charged and timely. Apeirogon is not a linear narrative. Told in 1000 short segments, it tells the story of two men who have lost daughters to violence — one is Israeli and the other is Palestinian. This is based on a true story. Rami and Bassam are joined together in their grief and through the united project of finding a road to peace. The fragments of McCann’s brilliant narrative go back and forth in time, zeroing in on different parts of these characters’ lives and families, weaving in scraps of history, politics and nature and seemingly random anecdotes and thoughts. I can’t really do justice to the power of this book through my review. As I read some parts — especially those dealing with Rami and Bassam’s grief and their paths forward — I found myself holding my breath in awe. What was not perfect? At times, I found myself losing focus — this is a long book with many tangents. But this is a minor flaw.This won’t be for everyone. It’s not a straightforward narrative and it’s infused with a political message. But it really turned my crank.I think I’ve given a five star rating to every one of McCann’s books I’ve read. He takes huge chances with big payoffs. He writes like an angel — deceptive simplicity.Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
    more
  • Paige
    January 1, 1970
    "They seemed the most unlikely of friends, even beyond the obvious, one being Israeli, the other Palestinian." Rami and Bassam's story is humbling. Centered around the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Rami and Bassam relive the day that each of their daughters died at the hands of a oppressive barrier that has effected more than just a perimeter. After each lose a daughter to violence, they learn to find solace in their grief and overcome the boundaries defined by their government. "...everyone "They seemed the most unlikely of friends, even beyond the obvious, one being Israeli, the other Palestinian." Rami and Bassam's story is humbling. Centered around the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Rami and Bassam relive the day that each of their daughters died at the hands of a oppressive barrier that has effected more than just a perimeter. After each lose a daughter to violence, they learn to find solace in their grief and overcome the boundaries defined by their government. "...everyone knew at least one child who was killed, and most of us knew several. You get used to it, sometimes you think it's normal." It is a somber read with graphic gory scenes from beginning to end. Rami and Bassam's recollections and revelations were heartbreaking. Just when I thought my heart couldn't break anymore, it did. But the power and value behind the words is undeniable. (The speeches they gave on pages 217-240 were unequivocal and would provide great dialogue for panel discussions and Socratic Seminars.)There are only sections; most sections are about a paragraph in length, some sections are one sentence, some might be a small photo, though other sections are the length of a regular chapter. With a total of 1,001 sections, there are no chapters or parts. It is a blend of fiction and nonfiction. For example: the story will be describing the anniversary of the time of deaths for the girls, so the very next section then discusses how the Greeks measured time in antiquity. Or, another example: there is a flashback when Salwa and her daughter are watching Arabian horses, so the next section goes into facts about Arabian horses. The fiction and nonfiction weave back and forth relying on each other. It jigsaws, using the previous section to build on the next section. The sequence is ornamental but blends cohesively.I loved the book. It changed the way I think. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. It had a profound impact on me. I enjoyed learning through their story. “Truth is, you can’t have a humane occupation. It just doesn’t exist. It can’t. It’s about control.” I won an advance reader's edition in a Goodread's Giveaway. Thank you Random House!Read The Guardian's Review for Apeirogon.
    more
  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!4.5 Stars Apeirogon — a shape with a countably infinite number of sides — shares the stories of those living through the conflict between Palestine and Israel, through two families whose outlooks and lives were changed when the lives of their two daughters were taken on what began as ordinary days, and ended with two families grieving their loss. The journey that brought them together through their grieving was not an immediate one, or an easy one, but a worthwhile one in the !! NOW AVAILABLE !!4.5 Stars Apeirogon — a shape with a countably infinite number of sides — shares the stories of those living through the conflict between Palestine and Israel, through two families whose outlooks and lives were changed when the lives of their two daughters were taken on what began as ordinary days, and ended with two families grieving their loss. The journey that brought them together through their grieving was not an immediate one, or an easy one, but a worthwhile one in the end. Through sharing their stories of the loss of their daughters, they were more able to see these infinite sides to each other’s story, which led to understanding, and a friendship. Based on the lives of real people, Rami Elhanan who is Israeli and his daughter, Smadar, and Bassam Aramin who is Palestinian and his daughter, Abir. Abir was ten years old when a rubber bullet ended her life, Smadar was thirteen. While the feelings of the mothers of Smadar and Abir are shared, the focus is on their fathers, how they met, and how they helped each other find some degree of peace.The format of this story is somewhat unconventional; it flits back and forth through time as different memories are recalled in one thousand segments that vary in length. Several range from being as short as three words to a sentence or two, one segment has no words, and others are more conventionally chapter length – if short chapters. Some include photographs or quotes from notable figures – some political, others offer varying perspectives. These segments begin at one, go to five hundred, and then back down to one, offering a more encompassing view of the ways these lives were personally affected, their journeys to a beginning of a sense of personal peace, and a broader view of both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A heartbreaking story about love, loss, conflict and life, with a heartfelt plea for peace.Pub Date: 25 Feb 2020Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Group – Random House
    more
  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Once upon a time …. Rami Elhanan, a Jew, a graphic artist … father too of the late Smadar, travelled on his motorbike from the suburbs of Jerusalem to the Cremesian monastry in the mainly Christian town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, to meet with Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, a Muslim . father too of the late Abir, ten years old, shot dead by an unnamed Israeli border guard in East Jerusalem, almost a decade after Rami’s daughter Smadar, two weeks away from fourteen, was killed in the western Once upon a time …. Rami Elhanan, a Jew, a graphic artist … father too of the late Smadar, travelled on his motorbike from the suburbs of Jerusalem to the Cremesian monastry in the mainly Christian town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, to meet with Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, a Muslim . father too of the late Abir, ten years old, shot dead by an unnamed Israeli border guard in East Jerusalem, almost a decade after Rami’s daughter Smadar, two weeks away from fourteen, was killed in the western part of the city by three Palestinian suicide bombers .. This brilliant book, surely a serious contender for the 2019 Booker Prize, is a “hybrid novel with invention at its core, a work of storytelling, which like all storytelling, weaves together elements of speculation, memory, fact and imagination”. At its heart is the true story of Rami (and Smadar) and Bassam (and Abir)http://withineyeofstorm.com/about-the...One Thousand and One Nights is an explicit inspiration not just for the storytelling of the book, but for its fascinating structure. It is told in 1001 number paragraphs – firstly counting up to 500 and then back down. The first half of the novel has as its narrative underpinning, the journey Rami takes on his motorbike to the meeting above, a meeting at which Rami and Bassam do what they do around the world – tell the stories of their daughter’s deaths, of their own mental journeys and of their plea for dialogue, understanding and peace. Memory. Trauma. The rhyme of history and oppression. The generational shifts, The lives poisoned with narrowness. What it might mean to understand the history of another. It struck him early on that people were afraid of the enemy because they were terrified that their lives might get diluted, that they might lose themselves in the tangle of knowing each other. The second half is underpinned by Bassam’s journey home after the meeting. The middle part is the two lengthy, and powerful accounts, that Rami and Bassam give at the meeting – accounts which we have already largely pieced together from the first part of the book, and which are then further explored on in the second half, but which are set out here in full detail.From the accounts and the book we get a strong sense of the kinship that Rami and Bassam have reached through their tragedies. Amicable numbers are two different numbers related in the sense that when you add all their proper divisors together – not including the original number itself – the sums of their divisors equal each other …. As if those different things of which they are compromised can somehow recognize each other. All of the above would make for a memorable and powerful piece of writing – however what also makes it exceptional literature is the way in which the 500 sections take elements of the stories of Rami and Bassam as a point to weave a web of connections, connections which then in turn give us a deeper understanding of their stories. These connections draw on modern and ancient history, geography, ornithology, mathematics, language, science, politics and so much more. Borges said to his listeners that One Thousand and One Nights could be compared to the creation of a cathedral or a beautiful mosque … Their stories had been gathered at different times, in myriad places …and from different sources …[they] existed on their own at first .. and were then joined together, strengthening one another, an endless cathedral, a widening mosque, a random everywhere It is really hard to do justice to the book and the way in which these connections are both scattered and then gathered together – sometimes via symbolism, sometimes bringing in the terrible reality of violence, and sometimes juxtaposing the two.But perhaps one example will give an idea.A terrible section tells of the work of Zaka Orthodox paramedics to gather up body parts after the suicide bombing which kills Smadar – the paramedics have to return to pick up an eyeball (of one of the bombers) spotted by an elderly man – Moti Richter. The eyeball has parts of the optic nerve attached and reminds Richter we are told of a “tiny old fashioned motorcycle lamp with wires dangling”. Via discussions of eye surgery, we go to the hospital where Abir is dying and Bassam is asked if (were the worse to happen) he would consent to an eye transplant. Via rubber bullets (one of which killed Abir) we visit the death of Goliath, the mushroom effect of suicide bombers. The book explores the tightrope walk of the high wire artist Phillipe Petit (the subject of one of the author’s earlier novels) across Jerusalem, following in the path of a cable used by the Jewish forces to sneak supplies over hostile territory in the 1948 War. Moti was a guard for this cable – and at night would patrol under the cable to ensure it was still working on a motorcycle (which in turn reminds us of Rami’s journey) which had its headlight disconnected – and which sat by his bedside “with its wires dangling”.Are these too many connections - not for this reader, and for me the concept of connection, of the constant search for commonality, of the need for unceasing dialogue - is absolutely crucial to the solution for peace that underlies the message of Rami, Bassam and this novel. The quotes above all show that. Ultimately no connection - and the resulting increase in empathy and diminishing of enmity - can be too many. Something the book’s title (a countably infinite sided polyhedral) acknowledges. At one point McCann discusses “The Conference of the Birds” (a story incidentally which is the second crucial inspiration for Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte”) – a story in which a long journey seeking enlightenment ends with the birds finding only their own reflections – an analogy I think for Rami and Bassam’s realisation that only recognising something of your own reflection in “the other” will ever really bring peace, as a bumper sticker on Rami’s motorcycle says “It will not be over until we talk”And a final example – a lengthy section discusses the journey of an Dublin born Irishman – Christopher Costigin in 1835, tracing the River Jordan from the Sea of Gaillee to the Sea of Salt (Dead Sea), a rather foolhardy and ultimately doomed attempt to explore the region. This novel, by another Dubliner, another attempt to explore and understand the land via journeys is in my view anything but a foolhardy and doomed attempt.One final comment on the structure of the book. The page numbering (and some comments I have seen from the author) almost imply that the book could be read backwards - which given its travel underpinning of the journey to/from the talk, would mean something of a chronologically backward reading.Actually I think that would be appropriate. One of the many points that the book makes is that to understand current day conflict you have to return to historical roots - this is as true in Israel (for example a crucial point in Bassam's journey towards peace is when he watches a holocaust film in jail and suddenly realises what drove the Jewish need for a homeland) as for the Irish conflict analogies the author (understandably given his background) frequently draws, as in this passage (imagined as George Mitchell's thoughts). Eight hundred years of history here. Thirty-five years of oppression there. A treaty here, a massacre there, a siege elsewhere. What happened in ’68. What supermarket was torched in ’74. What happened last week on the Shankill Road. The bombings in Birmingham. The shootings in Gibraltar. The links with Libya. The Battle of the Boyne. The march of Cromwell. Very highly recommended. There may be books in 2020 which give an equally brilliant literary treatment to an equally powerful story and with an equally important message. If so then 2020 will be a vintage year for literature.My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for an ARC via NetGalley
    more
  • Joy D
    January 1, 1970
    “I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries.” – Colum McCannSet in Jerusalem and surrounding area, each of two fathers, a Palestinian and an Israeli, has lost a daughter to radical violence. United in loss, they become friends and join Combatants for Peace, “a bi-national, volunteer based, movement working throughout Palestine and Israel to promote peace.” Their friendship is grounded in fact. This book provides insight into how their daily lives are impacted “I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries.” – Colum McCannSet in Jerusalem and surrounding area, each of two fathers, a Palestinian and an Israeli, has lost a daughter to radical violence. United in loss, they become friends and join Combatants for Peace, “a bi-national, volunteer based, movement working throughout Palestine and Israel to promote peace.” Their friendship is grounded in fact. This book provides insight into how their daily lives are impacted by the conflict. The primary theme is how we are similar in our response to grief, despite whatever differences we have in life. McCann’s message is geared at instilling a spirit of peace and understanding in the world.“In geometry, an apeirogon (from the Greek apeiros, ‘infinite, boundless’ and gonia, ‘angle’) is a generalized polygon with a countably infinite number of sides. It can be considered as the limit of an n -sided polygon as n approaches infinity.” Thus, as more sides are included, it approaches the form of a circle. McCann has structured his book in such a manner. He takes pieces and parts of history, nature, war, art, and geography, and each becomes a “chapter.” Many of these subjects are further elaborated in subsequent chapters. Some include only a single sentence, while others are many paragraphs in length. The chapters count up to 500, then back down to 1. It is an inventive and unusual way to tell a story, or in this case, series of stories showing the interconnectivity of seemingly disparate entities.The storyline is intentionally fragmented, with snippets of information scattered here and there. It is up to the individual to piece it all together in the mind’s eye. This aspect will appeal to some readers more than others. I found it extremely creative and applaud the author for attempting to bring more harmony into a discordant world. I will be interested to see how it is received by those that live in the areas described. This ambitious book will appeal to readers of experimental fiction. I expect it will win literary awards.Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advance reader's copy. This book is scheduled to be released February 25, 2020.
    more
  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    "Once, long ago, these roads were so much easier to travel. Even in bad times. No by passes, no permits, no walls, no unapproved paths, no sudden barricades...Now it is a tangle of asphalt, concrete, light pole. Walls. Roadblocks. Barricades. Gates. Strobe lights. Motion activation. Electronic locks." In the hills of Beit Jala, an unmarked blimp with computers and infrared cameras identifies every vehicle's license plate: Israeli-yellow plate. Palestinian-green plate."The shopkeeper heard the "Once, long ago, these roads were so much easier to travel. Even in bad times. No by passes, no permits, no walls, no unapproved paths, no sudden barricades...Now it is a tangle of asphalt, concrete, light pole. Walls. Roadblocks. Barricades. Gates. Strobe lights. Motion activation. Electronic locks." In the hills of Beit Jala, an unmarked blimp with computers and infrared cameras identifies every vehicle's license plate: Israeli-yellow plate. Palestinian-green plate."The shopkeeper heard the pop". "A child on the pavement." Abir Aramin, 10 years old, was hit by a rubber bullet after purchasing a candy bracelet. The border guard firing the bullet was 18 years old. "...traffic had been blocked by the soldiers at the far end of the road. Nothing was being allowed through: no ambulances, no police, no paramedics." "Two hours later, the ambulance carrying Abir was still stalled near the checkpoint."Smadar Elhanan, age 13, died at the hands of a suicide bomber. Smadar was "a firecracker...she danced on the table...cartwheeled in the garden." She had been out shopping for school books. Smadar's father,"Rami often felt that there were nine or ten Israelis inside him, fighting. The conflicted one. The shamed one...the bereaved one. The one who marvelled at the [surveillance] blimp's invention. The one sick and tired of all the seeing...".Abir Aramin's father Bassam, had been imprisoned in Hebron as a teenager. During his 7 year imprisonment, Hertzl, a kindly Israeli prison guard, threw himself over Bassam to prevent one of Bassam's frequent beatings. Under the prison's Open University System, Bassam took classes in Hebrew. "Know your enemy, know yourself". "It slowly dawned on Bassam that the only thing they had in common was that both sides had once wanted to kill people they did not know...". In 2005, he co-founded Combatants for Peace.Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli, met at a meeting of Combatants for Peace. Rami thought of war as a sort of "awful artwork: the stretchers went in white and came out red." " [Bassam] no longer wanted to fight...Language was the sharpest weapon...He wanted to wield it." "Soon they were meeting virtually every single day. More than their jobs, this became their jobs: to tell the story of what happened to their girls."The power of "Apeirogon: A Novel" by Colum McCann lies in the tome's unique style of prose. Presented in 1001 numbered segments, varying in length from one sentence to several pages, author McCann alternates between time periods and interconnects stories that include the toll of the Holocaust, the use of weaponry such as rubber bullets and coffin tanks, and the use of cardboard blowguns as a means of communication from prison. The grief experienced on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sensitively handled. This work of fiction is based upon two real crusaders for Mid-East peace, Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin. Highly recommended!Thank you Random House Publishing Group-Random House and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "Apeirogon".
    more
  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    Before I start this review, I have a confession to make. Other than, “Dancer,” which I loved, I haven’t read anything else by Colum McCann. When I came across this on NetGalley, I almost didn’t think of requesting it. I have too many books to read and review – it was due out fairly soon. I couldn’t fit it in. However, when a book calls to you, it calls and, with a lack of self-control which I am prone to, when it comes to the written word, I clicked the button. So, I almost came to miss this Before I start this review, I have a confession to make. Other than, “Dancer,” which I loved, I haven’t read anything else by Colum McCann. When I came across this on NetGalley, I almost didn’t think of requesting it. I have too many books to read and review – it was due out fairly soon. I couldn’t fit it in. However, when a book calls to you, it calls and, with a lack of self-control which I am prone to, when it comes to the written word, I clicked the button. So, I almost came to miss this book, which will, undoubtedly, be in my top books of 2020 and, indeed, my top books, ever. This should win awards. However, more importantly, it should be read, because books are there to open our eyes, and our hearts, and our minds, to difficult subjects.For me, this was a difficult book. My own daughter is between the ages of Abir and Smadar, two young girls – one Palestinian and one Israeli – both killed; their deaths bringing their families and, in particular, their fathers, together. Smadar was killed by a suicide bomber, as she went to the mall. She loved Sinaed O’Connor, she wore a Blondie T-Shirt. She liked dance and music and was always moving. She weaved her way through the mall, with her friends, on a day when she went to buy books and sign up for dance class. Abir was crossing the road near her school, to buy candy. Her uneaten, candy bracelet, was a reminder of a casual, ordinary trip to the local shop, put to an end by a jumpy, eighteen year old soldier, who shot a rubber bullet and ended her life.In this novel, McCann weaves these stories together. The Parents Circle, started by an orthodox Jew, whose son, Arik, was killed by Hamas in 1994. An, ‘organisation of the bereaved,’ who have, ‘an equality of pain.’ A pain I can hardly bear to imagine, but this is a group of people who are, ‘sharing their sorrow. Not using it, or celebrating it, but sharing it.’ Most of all it is the way the tragic deaths of two young girls bring together their fathers, Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan, into an understanding. Of a Palestinian who is moved to study the Holocaust. Of an Israeli whose daughter had died when he met Bassam, and who, terribly, had to witness the murder of his friend’s daughter and the court case that followed. Although this does, indeed, tell the stories of Smadar, Abir, and their families, this is no linear narrative. McCann uses short chapters – sometimes only one line. He meanders; one topic leading to another. A traveller, a weapon, a hunger strike, a wall. Glimpses of borders, or graffiti, then a sudden feeling of terror – a father on his way to an airport, hearing the news of a bomber. A seemingly innocuous call from a school… I almost missed this novel and, if I had simply decided that I didn’t have time for it, I would have been less for having not read it. Important, profound, poignant and moving. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review. I will buying a copy for my shelves.
    more
  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    What could cause someone to be that angry, that mad, that desperate, that hopeless, that stupid, that pathetic, that he is willing to blow himself up alongside a girl, not even fourteen years old? How can you possibly understand that instinct? To tear his own body apart? To walk down a busy street and pull the cord on a belt that rips him asunder? How can he think that way? What made him? Where in the world was he created? How did he get that way? Where did he come from? Who taught him this? What could cause someone to be that angry, that mad, that desperate, that hopeless, that stupid, that pathetic, that he is willing to blow himself up alongside a girl, not even fourteen years old? How can you possibly understand that instinct? To tear his own body apart? To walk down a busy street and pull the cord on a belt that rips him asunder? How can he think that way? What made him? Where in the world was he created? How did he get that way? Where did he come from? Who taught him this? Did I teach him this? Did his government teach him this? Did my government? A devastating, complicated, compassionate and great-hearted book that got under my skin, made me think and feel, which choked me up and yet left me feeling that there is hope even if it's unending grief which creates a community of humanity between people forced onto different sides. There's nothing sentimental about McCann's writing, and it allows space and dignity for a multitude of voices. The 1001 sections pay homage to acts of storytelling and also keep the forward momentum even as the narrative circles, repeats, expands and contracts. At the heart of this structure, at points 500, are two extended stories from the two fathers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, both grieving a lost child. And here, again, we find complexities embraced rather than smoothed out: both had formerly celebrated atrocities against the other; both find they share more than divides them. Mixing seamlessly between fact and imagination, McCann makes connections at both the granular level (the bracelet of candy bought by Abir and prayer beads) and more widely: the presence of Irish history is a shadowy background of another occupation with go/no-go areas, military checkpoints, rubber bullets, active resistance and hunger strikes, as well as a symbol of hope and regeneration springing from the chaos of history.I don't want to say more about the stories as each reader deserves to read them fresh for themselves, so I'll just say that this is an extraordinary piece of writing, sure to be one of the literary highlights of the year. In the midst of our toxic politics, the re-emergence of legitimized hatred, not least from our statesmen, this quietly and without fanfare or pyrotechnics speaks to commonality and common humanity: 'we are Semitic, both of us, Israelis and Palestinians together... it was one Israeli soldier who shot my daughter, but one hundred former Israeli soldiers came to Anata to build a playground for her'.Many thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC via NetGalley.
    more
  • Elle Rudy
    January 1, 1970
    “There’s an old saying, he said, about how the foreign journalist who travels to the Middle East and stays a week goes home to write a book in which he provides a pat solution to all of its problems. If he stays a month, he writes a magazine or newspaper article filled with ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘on the other hands.’ If he stays a year he writes nothing at all.” -Asymmetry by Lisa HallidayNo, that’s not a quote from Colum McCann, but I came across it on Twitter in the midst of reading Apeirogon and “There’s an old saying, he said, about how the foreign journalist who travels to the Middle East and stays a week goes home to write a book in which he provides a pat solution to all of its problems. If he stays a month, he writes a magazine or newspaper article filled with ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘on the other hands.’ If he stays a year he writes nothing at all.” -Asymmetry by Lisa HallidayNo, that’s not a quote from Colum McCann, but I came across it on Twitter in the midst of reading Apeirogon and couldn’t get it out of my head. Everyone thinks they have the answers to problems that they live outside of, and only realize how much they don’t know once they start to learn more. Just ask Jared Kushner how his plan for ‘Middle East peace’ is going.I don’t know what time or research McCann put into this novel. This isn’t a swipe at his choice to write Apeirogon, but more of an observation. The outsider coming in and telling locals how their own people should be governed is a theme in the book as well. The story of Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan and their daughters, Abir and Smadar, is an important one to be told. There have been articles written about them and speaking engagements given by the two men, but in this novelization McCann goes deeper into the struggles of two fathers left mourning their young daughters who are determined to prevent these tragedies from happening again. And again. And again.I’m unfamiliar with McCann’s writing style, but I can appreciate what he’s chosen to do with this work. Maybe it’s different than what he normally does, I wouldn’t know. While it worked for me at first, I found myself drifting away between passages because they were just so disjointed. I wanted to read this, but I had to drag myself back to the words on the page multiple times after wandering away. I’d say for that reason it’s probably not super ADHD-friendly.Of the two of them, I think Rami may be easier for ‘Western’ audiences to relate to. He was like every person who has the privilege of divorcing themselves from the political implications of the world. The problem with having an epiphany only after something affects you directly is that you have to wait for it to absolutely devastate your life before you understand that you were dangling precariously the entire time. You become awakened to that reality only after it’s too late to do anything about it. Prior to this you had convinced yourself that not only was it never going to happen to you or anyone you care about, but that anyone who does kick up a ruckus over such ‘divisive’ issues is a hysterical, partisan outrage-artist who can’t have any actual grievances in a world that’s been so good to you. Both nihilism and nonchalance are two sides of the same coin—indifference. Bassam, on the other hand, lived a life I could hardly imagine. He has been occupied his entire life, was brutally punished as a teenager and young adult, but came out of his seven year internment already wanting peace, not vengeance. Losing his daughter may have been a major catalyst for him, but it wasn’t the ultimate turning point. That said, both he and Rami’s message is stronger together than separately. It’s not often we get to see the same conflict discussed so completely from both points of view. Some people had strong reactions to the explicit depiction and aftermath of violence in the book. McCann relays the information very clinically and probably a little too in-depth. It comes off somewhat cold and removed, missing the compassion he has when talking about Rami and Bassam. Also, some of the hundreds of passages are used to weave in facts about various species of birds, as a metaphor or symbol. While some are interesting, I didn’t enjoy the detail that was used to describe capturing, torturing and killing the birds that were destined to be eaten. I understand why so many are raving about this novel. It’s an important subject and features real-life figures in the Israeli/Palestinian peace movement. After finishing it, though, I think I would have been fine just reading an article written about the two girls and their respective families.*Thanks to Random House & Netgalley for an advance copy!
    more
  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    From the acknowledgements:”This is a hybrid novel with invention at its core, a work of storytelling which, like all storytelling, weaves together elements of speculation, memory, fact, and imagination…”There is a core story being told in Apeirogon. On 4 September 1997, Smadar Elhanan was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. On 16 January 2007, Abir Aramin was leaving school with friends in Anata when she was hit in the head by a rubber bullet. She died in hospital. The fathers of these two From the acknowledgements:”This is a hybrid novel with invention at its core, a work of storytelling which, like all storytelling, weaves together elements of speculation, memory, fact, and imagination…”There is a core story being told in Apeirogon. On 4 September 1997, Smadar Elhanan was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. On 16 January 2007, Abir Aramin was leaving school with friends in Anata when she was hit in the head by a rubber bullet. She died in hospital. The fathers of these two girls, Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli, became friends and joined forces to work for peace in one of the world’s most troubled places.So much is known fact:https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theg...Apeirogon is the story of these two men. In part of the story, we follow the men almost chronologically through a day, but this is mixed with a multitude of flashbacks that fill in the details for the reader jumping around in time. We revisit some events numerous times, adding details and fresh perspectives as we go. It feels like McCann has hit the story with a hammer and carefully picked up the small pieces (there are multiple references to shrapnel through the book) and constructed something new from them.But Apeirogon is a lot more than this. Because, as well as reconstructing the story of Aramin and Elhanan, McCann has taken a multitude of other threads, hit them all with hammers, and mixed all the pieces together before he starts re-constructing. The novel consists of 1001 fragments varying from a few pages to just a few words. Some are pictures. This means we read about bird migration, the music of John Cage, a 19th-century explorer of the Jordan river, Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk over Jerusalem (https://apnews.com/017df269d150fd80d1...), Borges’ visit to Jerusalem, and many, many other things. McCann sees connections, some of them poetic rather than literal, and presents us with a mixture, as he says, of fact and imagination that gives the reader a poetic perspective that is often profoundly moving.It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. Its page count suggests it is a long book, but there is a lot of white space and it doesn’t feel long (I have seen some review quotes that suggest it is too long, but that was not my experience of the book).This is the kind of novel that is impossible to write about without feeling that you have missed out huge chunks of important information, so all I can really do is suggest you read it. You might like to watch this video clip where Bassam’s son Arab and Rami’s son Yigal share the stage together as they seek to continue their fathers’ work: https://youtu.be/oJllnXxS41M.My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for an ARC via NetGalley.
    more
  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    I will start with a disclosure - the edition I read was an uncorrected proof courtesy of my friends at Five Leaves bookshop. Gumble's Yard and Neil have already written excellent detailed reviews so I will try to keep this one short. This is a book that fully deserves the hype - McCann has dared to write this collage of fact and fiction that challenges all sides in the conflict in Palestine to explore their common humanity.The book is written in 1001 sections, counting from 1 to 500, 1001 and I will start with a disclosure - the edition I read was an uncorrected proof courtesy of my friends at Five Leaves bookshop. Gumble's Yard and Neil have already written excellent detailed reviews so I will try to keep this one short. This is a book that fully deserves the hype - McCann has dared to write this collage of fact and fiction that challenges all sides in the conflict in Palestine to explore their common humanity.The book is written in 1001 sections, counting from 1 to 500, 1001 and down from 500 to 1 again, varying from a few pages down to a single line or picture. Its central characters Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin are both real, one Israeli and one Palestinian. Both have lost young daughters to the conflict and both are campaigning against the odds to work for peace and understanding. Alongside these human stories are many other elements, some historical and cultural, some mathematical, some more descriptive of the landscape and wildlife, notably the migrating birds that cross Palestine. These coalesce surprisingly well, and the whole is very readable. Highly recommended.
    more
  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    95. Apeirogon: a shape with a countably infinite number of sides.94. From the Greek, apeiron: to be boundless, to be endless. Alongside the Indo-European root of per: to try, to risk.93. As a whole, an apeirogon approaches the shape of a circle, but a magnified view of a small piece appears to be a straight line. One can finally arrive at any point within the whole. Anywhere is reachable. Anything is possible. At the same time, the entirety of the shape is complicit.Sometimes it feels like 95. Apeirogon: a shape with a countably infinite number of sides.94. From the Greek, apeiron: to be boundless, to be endless. Alongside the Indo-European root of per: to try, to risk.93. As a whole, an apeirogon approaches the shape of a circle, but a magnified view of a small piece appears to be a straight line. One can finally arrive at any point within the whole. Anywhere is reachable. Anything is possible. At the same time, the entirety of the shape is complicit.Sometimes it feels like forces outside of myself conspire to put the right book into my hand at the right time: Recently returned from a trip to Israel – where my long-held empathy towards the Jewish people and belief in the absolute necessity for them to have been granted a homeland in the wake of the Holocaust were reaffirmed – and I found myself in possession of an ARC of Colum McCann's latest, Apeirogon, and what a surprise it was to me to see that it is based on the real-life friendship of an Israeli and a Palestinian man. Thinking that I already knew something of the conflict between their peoples, I nonetheless find myself having been changed by the reading of this book. Eye-opening, powerful, literary, heartbreaking: I challenge anyone to not be moved; to be fundamentally changed. (Note: I read an ARC and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.)One Thousand and One Nights: a ruse for life in the face of death.To begin with this book's format: I don't know if you can really call this a “novel”; I'd say literary nonfiction. The narrative concerns the aforementioned friends – Bassam and Rami – and slowly reveals their stories, interspersed with facts and plenty of seemingly unrelated information (there is much on migratory birds, which is further spooled out to include everything from François Mitterand eating ortolan [songbirds drowned in brandy] as his last meal, to the latest craze for diamond-encrusted falcon hoods among Arabian Princes). The book is divided into 1001 parts (chapters count up from 1-499, the middle – between a pair of blacked-out pages – contains the transcribed speeches that Bassam and Rami deliver around the world, each numbered as 500, and then the chapters count down again to 1). So too is One Thousand and One Nights referenced more than once (from Sir Richard Burton originally translating it into English as he impersonated an Arab in the Middle East, to the story of Wael Zuaiter – a poet who was assassinated by Mossad in retribution for the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and whose copy of One Thousand and One Nights trapped one of the thirteen bullets fired at his body), and much like the apeirogon itself, these countless facets serve to demonstrate both unrecognised interconnectedness and the complexity that overwhelms the human mind. However, while I was interested in everything that McCann included, and while I appreciated his efforts to bring his keen writing skills to such a worthy story, I think that the story itself is too important to risk turning away the widest readership possible with highfalutin' literary flourishes (but I hope to be wrong about that; I do hope this book finds its audience). If you divide death by life you will find a circle. And so to their stories: Rami Elhanan, like all Israelis, had served his obligatory military term as a youth – he served during a time of war and killed impassionately, reflexively – and then wanted to just live a normal life; working at graphic design, enjoying his quiet home with his wife and four children. But in 1997, Rami's 13-year-old daughter Smadar was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber as she walked down a Jerusalem street with her friends, and Rami's first response was one of hatred and a thirst for revenge. This ate at him for a year, until a rabbi invited Rami to the Parent's Circle – a support group for both Israeli and Palestinian parents who had lost children – and while Rami only went reluctantly, when he first saw a Palestinian woman clutching a photograph of her own dead daughter, he realised that it was the first time in his life he had thought of an individual Palestinian person as a fellow human being. His hatred and vengeance disappeared and he eventually sought out another organization, Combatants for Peace, where he would meet Bassam Aramin; a Palestinian man who would teach Rami what life is like in Occupied Palestine. An excerpt from the speech that Rami now travels the world to deliver to wide-ranging audiences: We must end the Occupation and then sit down to figure it out. One state, two states, it doesn't matter at this stage – just end the Occupation, and then begin the process of rebuilding the possibility of dignity for all of us. It's as clear to me as the noonday sun. There are times, sure, when I would like to be wrong. It would be so much easier. If I found another path I would have taken it – I don't know, revenge, cynicism, hatred, murder. But I am a Jew. I have great love for my culture and my people and I know that ruling and oppressing and occupying is not Jewish. Being Jewish means that you respect justice and fairness. No people can rule another people and obtain security and peace for themselves. The Occupation is neither just nor sustainable. And being against the Occupation is, in no way, a form of anti-Semitism. Bassam grew up in an area of the West Bank controlled by Israeli security forces – subject to house raids, humiliating checkpoints, and patrolling armed soldiers. Bassam and his friends liked to hoist the (outlawed) Palestinian flag at their school, and when soldiers would come to take it down, throw rocks and run away. As a teenager, Bassam and his friends found some grenades, and when then threw those (defective) explosives at a convoy, the seventeen-year-old found himself labelled a terrorist and sentenced to prison for seven years. In prison, Bassam became at first more radical, but while watching a documentary on the Holocaust (which he had been taught had never happened), Bassam found himself thinking of the Jewish people as fellow human beings for the first time in his life. Upon release he cofounded Combatants for Peace, and two years after meeting Rami for the first time, Bassam also became a member of an organisation no one wants to join – the Parents Circle – when his own ten-year-old daughter, Abir, was shot in the back of the skull with a rubber bullet, fired by a jumpy eighteen-year-old Israeli soldier from the back of an armoured jeep, as Abir bought candy bracelets for herself and her sister. Joined forever in grief, the two fathers now meet several times a week and the following is an excerpt from the speech Bassam delivers alongside “his brother” Rami:We started Combatants for Peace. There, at the Everest Hotel, up the road, near the settlement, by the Wall, two minutes away. Rumi, the poet, the Sufi, said something that I will never forget: Beyond right and wrong there is a field. I'll meet you there. We were right and we were wrong and we met in the field. We realized that we wanted to kill each other to achieve the same thing, peace and security. Imagine that, what an irony, it's crazy. We sat in the Everest Hotel and talked about ending the Occupation. Even that word occupation makes most Israelis tremble. Of course, each one had a different point of view – they are the occupiers and we are the ones under occupation, so it looks different to them. But in the end we were all dying, we were killing each other, over and over. We needed to know each other instead. This is the center of gravity, this is where it all comes down. There will be security for everyone when we have justice for everyone. As I have always said, it's a disaster to discover the humanity of your enemy, his nobility, because then he is not your enemy anymore, he just can't be.In a very useful device, McCann narrates – intermittently, over the course of the entire book – the experiences of Rami and Bassam driving back to their respective homes after one of their meetings in the West Bank. Rami, as an Israeli, isn't really supposed to be here, but he is able to race his motorbike along the highway towards Jerusalem without issue, knowing there isn't much at stake if he does get caught. On the other hand, Bassam is required to pass through at least one checkpoint on his way home, and he knows that he is subject to questioning, detention, or arrest every time he leaves or returns to Jericho. There are stories about the IDF blowing up the cave (a very comfortable and suitable home) where his family resided outside Hebron when he was a child, Bassam's wife and terrified children being subjected to a humiliating strip search in front of each other, people being forced to stand under the desert sun for hours while the Israeli border guard lounges on a beach chair and cracks open soda for himself from a nearby cooler. From Bassam's speech: The Occupation exists in every aspect of your life, an exhaustion and a bitterness that nobody outside it really understands. It deprives you of tomorrow. It stops you from going to the market, to the hospital, to the beach, to the sea. You can't walk, you can't drive, you can't pick an olive from your own tree which is on the other side of the barbed wire. You can't even look up in the sky. They have their planes up there. They own the air above and the ground below. You need a permit to sow your land. Your door is kicked in, your house is taken over, they put their feet on your chairs. Your seven-year-old is picked up and interrogated. You can't imagine it. Seven years old. Be a father for a minute and think of your seven-year-old being picked up in front of your eyes. Blind-folded. Zip ties put on his wrists. Taken to Military Court in Ofer. Most Israelis don't even know this happens. They're not allowed to see. Their newspapers, their televisions, they don't tell them these things. They can't travel in the West Bank. They have no idea how we are living. But it happens every day. Every single day. Naturally, if Israelis don't know it's like this, I certainly didn't know; I didn't see this, I wasn't told about it. Rami and Bassam's stories are so heart-breaking: of course it's the abuse of power by Israeli soldiers, just like Rami had been, that led a Palestinian suicide-bomber to make the ultimate protest; and of course, it's because of youth like Bassam had once been – throwing rocks and then grenades at Israeli soldiers – that made an eighteen-year-old jumpy enough to fire towards schoolchildren. It's a self-perpetuating cycle, but one that Rami and Bassam both think can be stopped: just end the Occupation (such a loaded word) and work out the details later; one-state, two-state, right-of-return, settlements, nothing matters until after children stop being killed. Hard to argue with that.Again, I don't know if this adds up to a novel, but Colm McCann has crafted something really special and essential here. I do hope it's widely read; that things change for Israel and Palestine.
    more
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    An unique presentation of a heartbreaking story, with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a backdrop, that will open your eyes and touch your heart. SUMMARYThese two men are the most unlikely of friends. Rami Elhanan is Israeli, a Jew and the father of a thirteen-year-old daughter. Bassam Aramin is Palestinian, a Muslin, an Arab and the father of a ten-year-old daughter. These two fathers lives intersect when they became members of the Parents Circle, the kind of club no parent wants to be a An unique presentation of a heartbreaking story, with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a backdrop, that will open your eyes and touch your heart. SUMMARYThese two men are the most unlikely of friends. Rami Elhanan is Israeli, a Jew and the father of a thirteen-year-old daughter. Bassam Aramin is Palestinian, a Muslin, an Arab and the father of a ten-year-old daughter. These two fathers lives intersect when they became members of the Parents Circle, the kind of club no parent wants to be a member of. In 1997, Rami’s daughter, Smadar, becomes the victim of three Palestinian suicide bombers in a Jerusalem shopping area. A decade later, in 2007. Bassam’s daughter, Abir is killed by a rubber bullet by a Israeli border guard, just after purchasing a candy bracelet at a grocery store down the street from her Palestinian school. Rami and Bassam had been raised to hate one another. And yet, when they heard each other’s stories, they recognized that their tremendous loss connects them. They now work together using their grief and their stories as a path for seeking international peace. “When you divide death by life you find a circle.” REVIEWThe term “apeirogon” refers to a shape with a countable but infinite number of sides, which is a perfect title for this inventive and thought-provoking book. The story is nonlinear and is probably unlike anything you’ve ever read before, but well worth the read. APEIROGON is creatively divided into 1,001 informative fragments numbered 1 to 500 and then descending from 500 back to 1. The fragments are seemingly random and include not just the fictional account of Rami and Bassam’s story, but also references to birds, literature, philosophy, music and art. But it’s all connected, like an apeirogon. It’s an enlightening and thought-provoking read, one you don’t want to miss. The writing will open your eyes and touch your heart. Author COLUM McCANN met the two men in 2015 when he visited Israel and Palestine. Their talk took his breath away. This book, will take your breath away as well. McCann has woven an intriguing story full of facts, memories, speculation and imagination. The movie rights for this book have already been purchased by Steven Spielberg. McCann is an Irish writer of literary fiction. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and now lives in New York. He is distinguished professor of creative writing at Hunter College and has written six novels including TransAtlantic and the National Book Award winning Let the Great World Spin.Thanks to Netgalley and Random House for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I have begun to change myself.” -RumiPublisher Random HousePublished February 25, 2020Review www.bluestockingreviews.com
    more
  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    Israeli Rami Elhanan and Palestinian Bassam Aramin have both lost their beloved daughters in the seemingly unending warzone of disputed land in Israel. Colum McCann takes his title, Apeirogon, from a multifaceted shape of countable infinite sides, which still makes my brain hurt just thinking about. But repeatedly it reverts to the day in 1997 when Rami's daughter 13-year-old Smadar is killed by suicide (or homicide if you will) bombers, and 10 years later when 10-year-old Abir is felled by a Israeli Rami Elhanan and Palestinian Bassam Aramin have both lost their beloved daughters in the seemingly unending warzone of disputed land in Israel. Colum McCann takes his title, Apeirogon, from a multifaceted shape of countable infinite sides, which still makes my brain hurt just thinking about. But repeatedly it reverts to the day in 1997 when Rami's daughter 13-year-old Smadar is killed by suicide (or homicide if you will) bombers, and 10 years later when 10-year-old Abir is felled by a rubber bullet. We learn about these methods of terror, their genesis, the effect on a normal family and how these two grieving fathers become well known travelling the world in an effort to promote peace. But there is so much more. McCann has a distinct style of writing, weaving disparate stories together into a patchwork, which forms a quilt in the mind. Here he is at his most ambitious, incorporating so many elements, such an astounding feat. Birds overhead, their migratory patterns as well as the roles they play for humans, and even Philipe Petit in his walk across the Hinnom Valley. McCann even gives a patch to his native Ireland, which usually plays a part in any of his works. Mitterand, the divisive wall, even Banksy. It's long and there's quite a bit of repetition, but never boring and forever haunting.
    more
  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    APEIROGONBY COLUM McCANNApeirogon is a shape with infinite sides and angles to it. Thus is the endless conflict that takes place between Israel and Palestine for as long as I can remember. In this stunning story that is both multifaceted drawn from both fiction and facts comes an unlikely friendship between two friends from opposite countries rooted together drawn by love, unimaginable loss and the desire to spread their commonalities as often as they can to try to spread peace wherever they APEIROGONBY COLUM McCANNApeirogon is a shape with infinite sides and angles to it. Thus is the endless conflict that takes place between Israel and Palestine for as long as I can remember. In this stunning story that is both multifaceted drawn from both fiction and facts comes an unlikely friendship between two friends from opposite countries rooted together drawn by love, unimaginable loss and the desire to spread their commonalities as often as they can to try to spread peace wherever they can. For these two men who live day to day with being told what roads they are allowed to drive on, who must navigate checkpoints and drive with color coded license plates that are monitored by the big blimps in the sky; are united by the most staggering losses and heartbreak that a parent will ever face. They do not dwell in resentment or crippling hatred but instead share common ground by sharing their stories in whatever venues they can to tell about their two beloved daughters in an effort to bring peace to their uncertain worlds. Their two lives will never again be the same. Ever!Bassam Aramin is of Palestine descent and lost his ten year old daughter, Abir when she was shot in the back of the head and killed by a rubber bullet while she had just been out buying candy. Rami Elhanan of Israel lost his thirteen year old beautiful, sparkling daughter, Smadar when a suicide bomber blew up eight people including Smadar after school when she was out buying books after school. Both men are forever united in grief and yet for as much as they tell their stories describing their daughter's they are both extending an olive branch to anyone who will listen and maybe they can save others from having that ugly, crooked finger of fate pointed at some other innocent family. Although this is a novel the transcripts taken from both Bassam about abir and Rami about Smadar are factual. Thank you to Net Galley for providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
    more
  • Tom Mooney
    January 1, 1970
    This is a tremendous work of art, an original feat of storytelling, a tome to admire, a humbling reading experience. Colum McCann has created something new by recreating lots of old things.This is a novel in name only (in fact, the addition of A Novel to the title is in itself tongue in cheek.) It is novel, history, politics, reportage, short story, nature writing, memoir, biography and more. It is glorious. And yet it is flawed. It's too long by 1/3 at least. The story, in some ways, is simple. This is a tremendous work of art, an original feat of storytelling, a tome to admire, a humbling reading experience. Colum McCann has created something new by recreating lots of old things.This is a novel in name only (in fact, the addition of A Novel to the title is in itself tongue in cheek.) It is novel, history, politics, reportage, short story, nature writing, memoir, biography and more. It is glorious. And yet it is flawed. It's too long by 1/3 at least. The story, in some ways, is simple. It is the history of two men - both real living people - one a Palestinian, the other an Israeli, who have lost daughters to the ongoing conflict. Both have fought for their countries. Both are now leading members of a group seeking to bring peace to the region by talking, not with M16s.That is basically it. But that also only scratches the surface. McCann reinvents this narrative over and over again, unlocking new doors that lead to new stories, histories, anecdotes, snippets of history. Always building, always layering these men's back-stories and those of the region, the conflict, the occupation, the darn migrating birds. The effect is quite stunning. You wonder where it's going for a few pages and then suddenly, Wow! it all slides into place. Then before you know it, you've moved on, seamlessly, to new topics, new characters, new stories. And yet always the same. But really there's a bit too much of it. I think he could have slimmed it down by a couple hundred pages and it would be more accessible and even more enjoyable. It's hard to sustain a book of 450 pages that has little in the way of suspense or urgency. But hey, I'm nitpicking. It's a very fine novel.
    more
  • Susan Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    This was a difficult read for me in many ways. It is hard to read for both subject matter and the style of reading. The writing is a stream of conscious that flits around. Some chapters are extremely short and some aren't. The chapters shift from an Israeli who has lost his young daughter to senseless violence to a Palestine who lost his young daughter to senseless violence to a support group they both belong to. If that's not confusing enough there are chapters about birds thrown in. The This was a difficult read for me in many ways. It is hard to read for both subject matter and the style of reading. The writing is a stream of conscious that flits around. Some chapters are extremely short and some aren't. The chapters shift from an Israeli who has lost his young daughter to senseless violence to a Palestine who lost his young daughter to senseless violence to a support group they both belong to. If that's not confusing enough there are chapters about birds thrown in. The subject matter is difficult and daily life is so hard. Even harder is the description of life in a death camp in WWII (reminding me why I am boycotting WWII books- I just can't take it). There are descriptions of people matching bones to put a skeleton together that was just awful. One of the most troubling sections to me was how they caught falcons with doves as decoys. I did find the information about the lady who make hoods for falcons quite interesting. She even has a pool in the shape of a falcon hood. This is a beautifully written book that is so important but please be aware that it's hard. It's very very hard. I can't seem to shake it. I guess that's the sign of it's greatness. But I need something light and frothy now. Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review and most importantly, to Colum McCann for writing such a moving and intense book.
    more
  • Melodie Pennington
    January 1, 1970
    *I received an advance copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review*Sometimes you open a book, and at first you don't feel like you 'get' it. But there's a nagging feeling that you really should continue. And it becomes one of the books you think everyone should read in your life. Aperiogon is a complex read. It requires a lot of background knowledge regarding the conflict in Palestine. I learned a LOT through reading this book and through searching the internet for *I received an advance copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review*Sometimes you open a book, and at first you don't feel like you 'get' it. But there's a nagging feeling that you really should continue. And it becomes one of the books you think everyone should read in your life. Aperiogon is a complex read. It requires a lot of background knowledge regarding the conflict in Palestine. I learned a LOT through reading this book and through searching the internet for context. It was absolutely worth that kind of effort though. McCann's storytelling is nonlinear, and the breaks in story remind me of footnotes books (House of Leaves, An Abundance of Katherines, Crazy Rich Asians). I thought perhaps I might prefer the footnotes style, but as I read further, the format grew on me. It was often a welcome break in some of the grief. Speaking of grief, wow, can McCann write about heartbreak from so many characters in such a diverse fashion. Rami and Bassam's lectures were so similar (the grief of a parent is deep and unique and still universal, especially within the context surrounding Smadar and Abir's deaths) but still heartbreaking in their own rights. This book is important. It's timely. It's humanizing. And I will be recommending it to everyone I know.
    more
  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    "I will tell it until the day I die, and it will never change, but it will keep on putting a tiny crack in the wall until the day I die."Column McCann is an incredible writer. This book has a format that will appeal to some and put off others. It worked for me. The book is the story of two men, one Palestinian and one Israeli, who both have lost daughters. They come together to help spread peace. "I tried to hide it from my fellow prisoners but something in me changed—or maybe it hadn’t, but "I will tell it until the day I die, and it will never change, but it will keep on putting a tiny crack in the wall until the day I die."Column McCann is an incredible writer. This book has a format that will appeal to some and put off others. It worked for me. The book is the story of two men, one Palestinian and one Israeli, who both have lost daughters. They come together to help spread peace. "I tried to hide it from my fellow prisoners but something in me changed—or maybe it hadn’t, but something was coming from a new direction, maybe I had just found something that was there all along."The book travels back and forth in time, in and out of fiction and non fiction, it stops in the middle of a scene and then picks it up pages later. It repeats bits and pieces. It has not just a purpose and a story but also a rhythm. "Sometimes it feels like we’re trying to draw water from the ocean with a spoon, but peace is a fact."And it breaks every little part of your heart. It shows how awful we humans can be. It shows how awful we humans are. How we treat each other. In many parts, I was reminded of the Brene Brown quote about how we try to make people "other" and "not human" so we can hate them or hurt them and how when we get to know them as fellow humans, it becomes so much harder to write them off, to harm them. "We need to learn how to share this land, otherwise we will be sharing it in our graves."I had never heard of the story of Rami and Bassam. It was eye opening, heartening and of course completely heartbreaking. I do not wish this type of loss on my worst enemy and I have unbounded respect for their ability to take such profound loss and turn it into an opportunity to broker peace. To still be able to love and not let the hate take over."Bassam clicks his tongue and half-smiles. A familiar and hopeless gesture: they can travel together anywhere in the world, but not these few miles."The day to day lives of people living in the West Bank are shared in detail in this story. Once you read it, it becomes impossible to un-know it. It becomes impossible to not let it get to you. "The only interesting thing is to live."Everything about this book worked for me. I was blown away by it. By all the facts. By all the back and forth. By the terrible tragedies. By the senseless deaths. By the tireless fight for peace. By the incredible writing of Colum McCann.With gratitude to netgalley and Random House for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Dana Al-Basha دانة الباشا
    January 1, 1970
    As a Palestinian with the rubbish situation right now I'm interested to see what he has to say.
  • Brooklyn
    January 1, 1970
    Another thoughtful topical book from Colin McCann author of Let The Great World Spin. This is the true story of a friendship between two fathers - a Palestinian and Israeli in Israel - who both had lost young daughters to the conflict between their nations - one to a suicide bomber - and one shot “accidentally” with a rubber bullet by a soldier. McCann uses the structure of The 1001 Nights and divides the book into 1001 sections. He explores the stories of the two girls - their fathers Rami and Another thoughtful topical book from Colin McCann author of Let The Great World Spin. This is the true story of a friendship between two fathers - a Palestinian and Israeli in Israel - who both had lost young daughters to the conflict between their nations - one to a suicide bomber - and one shot “accidentally” with a rubber bullet by a soldier. McCann uses the structure of The 1001 Nights and divides the book into 1001 sections. He explores the stories of the two girls - their fathers Rami and Bassam who meet in a group for parents who have lost their children to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. It’s is extremely moving yet not sentimental. Clear-eyes. And nobody is safe. There are chapters about their personal histories and families- about history - geography of the region - mythological- colonial stories - religion - the future the past and the ever present. In the end it is a multifaceted and infinitely sided mathematical figure (which is what the title means- infinite sided). The book is historical fiction though most of the narrative is based on truth - and I learned a lot. My only criticism is that there is no real tension in the narrative as you know everything at the beginning. But much depth is developed in looking at this story from the many sides - The relationship between the two fathers is hardly facile and deeply moving enrichened with meaningful detail. There is no black or white, right or wrong in this story - we are all innocent - we are all culpable. There are so many nuances in the characters - they are not 100% heroic - but extremely human. It is obvious that there are no winners in this conflict. It's hard to describe this book - unique and so deeply felt. I received a copy of this book from @netgalley - also thank you to publisher #RandomHouse #ApeirogonANovel #NetGalley
    more
  • Lillian
    January 1, 1970
    Israeli Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian both lost children in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Rami's thirteen year old daughter, Samadar to a suicide bombing and Bassam's ten year old Abir was shot in the back of the head with a rubber bullet. These two grieving men come together in shared pain to create a shared peace. Colum McCann uses the structure of the apeirogon, a shape with a countably infinite number of sides, to tell the story of these two remarkable individuals pursing Israeli Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian both lost children in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Rami's thirteen year old daughter, Samadar to a suicide bombing and Bassam's ten year old Abir was shot in the back of the head with a rubber bullet. These two grieving men come together in shared pain to create a shared peace. Colum McCann uses the structure of the apeirogon, a shape with a countably infinite number of sides, to tell the story of these two remarkable individuals pursing an end to a senseless war. Blending fiction with nonfiction and weaving together science, politics, history, culture and biographical portraits, he has created a tapestry surrounding Rami and Bassam. His kaleidoscopic prose mirrors the broken pieces of the world and how they might fit together to make a whole. Yet as always, McCann has a gentleness to his storytelling to inspire empathy and hope.Apeirogon is haunting , captivating and masterfully complex. It will leave you breathless.Thank you PenguinRandom House for the ARE.
    more
  • Greg Zimmerman
    January 1, 1970
    First appeared at https://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.c...Colum McCann's new novel Apeirogon is certainly ambitious. It's a novel told in 1,001 sections, each sometimes a few pages, sometimes a single sentence. In total, it's a novel about mathematics, music, silence, water, borders, birds, violence, grief, peace, and about a hundred other things.But to back up and clear up the first question: An apeirogon is a shape with a "countably infinite number of sides" — essentially what appears to be a First appeared at https://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.c...Colum McCann's new novel Apeirogon is certainly ambitious. It's a novel told in 1,001 sections, each sometimes a few pages, sometimes a single sentence. In total, it's a novel about mathematics, music, silence, water, borders, birds, violence, grief, peace, and about a hundred other things.But to back up and clear up the first question: An apeirogon is a shape with a "countably infinite number of sides" — essentially what appears to be a circle. (If "countably infinite" sounds like an oxymoron to you too, well, you also must've missed that day in advanced geometry.)But beyond the literary calculus, there is also a pretty fascinating story here: It's about an Israeli man named Rami and a Palestinian man named Bassam who both have lost daughters to violence. These men are real people, as McCann tells us in his author's note. He further explains that Rami and Bassam have allowed him "to shape and reshape their words and worlds," which of course is necessary for a novel, but also a little unsettling as that's then always in the back of our minds: "What here is real?"For that reason, for me, the best part of this nearly 500 page novel is the 30 page section right in the middle when McCann lets Rami and Bassam tell their stories in their own words. These two parts, one for each man, presumably resemble the lectures these men are traveling around the world to give, to show how peace and friendship can evolve from even the worst circumstances. They're riveting. And heart-breaking. But ultimately hopeful.So, what is McCann really up to here? Why go to these lengths to craft such a structure around the tragic stories of these two men? Wouldn't something simpler resonate better? My take is that what he's trying to do is create an apeirogon of words, to show the "countably infinite" sides and influences and provocations to every story. And as is often the case in novels such as these, he's also trying to show how all these parts are connected. What matters is how each part is connected to others and how each part contributes to the whole. Stories don't have convenient beginnings and endings or parts that conveniently fit together in a linear timeline.All this literary flair may or may not work for you. For me, it didn't, exactly. So much of this feels superfluous. What's more, it's a novel that's so self-assured it also suffers from a problem of pride: Yes, it's really, really proud of itself. So while I completely respect the craft and talent here, I'd put this novel in the same category as George Saunders's Lincoln In The Bardo and Ta-Nehisi Coates's The Water Dancer: A novel you appreciate more than you actually enjoy reading.
    more
  • Jackson Matthews
    January 1, 1970
    A very difficult read for one's heart, but this is one of the infinite ways we will learn to care for one another. They go before us, that though our hearts be troubled now, they will also be filled with hope.
  • Sally
    January 1, 1970
    Given that Colum McCann is one of my favourite authors, it is hard not to be swayed by bias when reading something new that he has written. However, I think I am speaking truthfully and neutrally when I say that this is a phenomenal book.At turns heartbreaking, uplifting, ceaselessly hopeful, it fills you with the belief that change can come. As always, the writing is truly hypnotic, the words woven beautifully on the page. I knew as I was approaching the end of the book that I needed to slow Given that Colum McCann is one of my favourite authors, it is hard not to be swayed by bias when reading something new that he has written. However, I think I am speaking truthfully and neutrally when I say that this is a phenomenal book.At turns heartbreaking, uplifting, ceaselessly hopeful, it fills you with the belief that change can come. As always, the writing is truly hypnotic, the words woven beautifully on the page. I knew as I was approaching the end of the book that I needed to slow down, just to make it last. I couldn’t.
    more
  • Kangsoon
    January 1, 1970
    Colum McCann's "Apeirogon" is ambitious, experimental and heart warming in spite of the urgent subject matter, Palestine vs Israel. Israeli Rami and Palestinian Bassam suffer a loss of each own daughter, one by a Palestinian suicide bomber and the other by a rubber bullet shot by an Israeli. The novel follows their grief and shared effort to bring peace to the region in a very unique form.The novel has 1001 short chapters as if reflecting "Arabian Nights". The literary delights in this otherwise Colum McCann's "Apeirogon" is ambitious, experimental and heart warming in spite of the urgent subject matter, Palestine vs Israel. Israeli Rami and Palestinian Bassam suffer a loss of each own daughter, one by a Palestinian suicide bomber and the other by a rubber bullet shot by an Israeli. The novel follows their grief and shared effort to bring peace to the region in a very unique form.The novel has 1001 short chapters as if reflecting "Arabian Nights". The literary delights in this otherwise tragic story can be found in McCann's use of references. Not only "Arabian Nights" is mentioned in many cases, but also the original translator or collector of the stories Sir Richard Francis Burton shows up as a character in this novel. The same goes to Jorge Luis Borges, whose influence on this novel is obvious. Borges also becomes a character in this novel when the historical episodes of his visit to Israel are described. As if to provide a self reference to his own book, "Let the Great World Spin," French high-wire artist Philippe Petit appears in this novel, crossing the Hinnom Valley with a white dove (actually a pigeon).The experimental music of John Cage and Palestinian doctoral student, Dalia el-Fahum amplifies the importance of art and invention used in the writing of this book. It can be read as a vindication of this "circular" or "apeirogon" writing.The main story line is quite circular as if to prove "If you divide death by life you will find a circle," revisiting the same scenes with added details and sentiments, though the novel itself starts with Rami and ends with Bassam in a single day.Though there are numerous historical facts and scienfic information on migrant birds, water and weapons woven into this patchwork novel, the political statement and call of peace are foremost and urgent. McCann describes the emotion depth of grief and still tries to hold on to hope. This novel is a great tribute to art as a storytelling and a great achievement in storytelling itself.(Thank you, NetGalley, for providing this generous offer to read this book in advance!)
    more
Write a review