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Apeirogon

by Colum McCann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9805721,809 (4.2)132
"Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of intractable conflict that colors every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to take to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend. Theirs is a life in which children from both sides of the wall throw stones at one another. But their worlds shift irreparably when ten-year-old old Abir is killed by a rubber bullet meant to quell unruly crowds, and again when thirteen-year-old Smadar becomes the victim of suicide bombers. When Bassam and Rami learn one another's stories and the loss that connects them, they become part of a much larger tale that ranges over centuries and continents. Apeirogon is a novel that balances on the knife edge of fiction and nonfiction. Bassam and Rami are real men and their actual words are a part of this narrative, one that builds through thousands of moments and images into one grand, unforgettable crescendo"--… (more)
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» See also 132 mentions

English (50)  German (2)  Catalan (2)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (57)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Interesting concept. Intentionally, but distractingly repetitive ( )
  MarshaKT | Jul 8, 2024 |
This is the first book I've read by Colum McCann, and I was so impressed. He takes a very difficult subject, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and renders it into relatable human terms without losing any of its complexity. Apeirogon means a shape with countable yet infinite sides—a perfect title for such a complex situation.

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, even the seemingly impossible.

At the same time, one can arrive anywhere within an apeirogon and the entirety of the shape is complicit in the journey, even that which has not yet been imagined.


Peace is achievable, in fact, inevitable, say the protagonists. After all, who would have thought that Germany and Israel would have diplomatic relations? Who would have thought that a Palestinian man whose daughter was killed by an Israeli sniper and an Israeli man whose daughter was killed by a suicide bomber could be friends? Could work together toward the end of the Occupation and peace? Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan are the two men. They are real and their stories are real. You can Google them and see photos of their daughters. They gave Colum McCann permission to tell their story, and to do so in a novel.

McCann structures his story in a 1001 chapters, in homage to [One Thousand and One Nights]. In the center of the book, at its heart, are two chapters, based on transcripts of the speeches that Bassam and Rami give all over the world. The rest of the book is a build up to and a descent from these two stories. Switching between characters and time periods, their stories are told in layers interwoven with dozens of other stories: Mitterand's last meal, films shot in Terezin concentration camp, the habits of migratory birds, a high wire walker, Picasso's Dove. But always the story is pulled back to these two men and their shared pain.

In 1932 Einstein and Freud exchanged letters about the possibility of preventing war. McCann paraphrases Freud's response: "...anything which creates emotional ties between human beings inevitably counteracts war. What had to be sought was a community of feeling, and a mythology of the instincts." I think that the work that Bassam and Rami are doing, and the book that McCann has written, are direct attempts at just that—to create a community of feeling. It's impossible to consider someone you empathize with as your enemy. As Rami says, it won't be over until we talk. So let's talk. And this book is a good place to begin. ( )
1 vote labfs39 | Apr 28, 2024 |
An “apeirogon” is “a shape with a countably infinite number of sides.” And Apeirogon, the novel, is a story with a countably infinite number of tellings, depending on the teller, and the day, and the synergies. The story takes place in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and brings together two men – 67-year-old Jewish graphic designer Rami Elhanan and Palestinian Bassam Aramin, who survived seven years in an Israeli jail. Coping with grief over the senseless killing of their daughters draws them together. Rami’s teenage daughter, Smadar, was killed in a suicide bombing in 1997. Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, was felled by a rubber bullet shot by Israeli soldiers in a truck passing by as she and her friends came from the store where she bought a candy bracelet. The two men work through the grief that unites them in the Parents Circle-Family Forum, made up of parents and other relatives on both sides of the ever-present conflict who lost their loved ones. But my summary could never do justice to the exquisite prose, the sensitivity and skill McCann has in making tangible the agonies of these men living always with both the unbearable loss of their daughters and the omnipresent reality of the occupation, which he beautifully described as “the rim of a tightening lung.”

A bit about the structure of the novel. There are, in essence, 1,001 chapterlets that do not unfold in a linear fashion but are logical. Some are one sentence long; others go on for pages. They tell the central story; they go off on wonderfully informative tangents. The middle of the book is where we get the full story of each of the protagonists – in chapter 1001, which is both preceded and succeeded by chapter 500. The chapterlets in the first half of the book are numbered 1 to 500, and in the second half of the book are numbered backwards from 500 to 1. I assume the 1,001 was a nod to 1,001 Arabian Nights, which he mentions a couple of times in the book. ( )
  bschweiger | Feb 4, 2024 |
There were more wars, yes, but there were always wars weren't there. This was the price people had to pay."

This is the story (Fiction/Nonfiction, not sure which parts are which) of the friendship between two very different men. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. In 1997 his 13 year old daughter was killed by Palestinian suicide bombers in Jerusalem. Balsam Aramin is Palestinian. In 2007 his 10 year old daughter Abir was shot by and Israeli in the back of the head with rubber bullet after she emerged from a candy store on her way to school. How does a parent react and ever recover from the loss of a child by such violence? The two men come together frequently to tell their stories all over the world, in the hopes that one day the violence will end.

The book is arranged in 1001 short "chapters" or shards, some only a sentence or two long. It is at times difficult to read, and images have stuck with me--the eyeball on the awning, the wind chimes made of teargas canisters, the bumper sticker on Rami's motorbike, "It will not be over until we talk." The two men are deeply invested in what they are doing. I can't help but wonder what they are thinking with this latest madness in the Middle East. One of the blurbs on the book said it will break your heart. Yes it will indeed. It is a moving and essential book, and I highly recommend it.

4 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Dec 31, 2023 |
Well written, even if I don't necessarily agree with the premise ( )
  wahoo8895 | Nov 20, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
In the context of the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East and Ireland’s condemnation of Israel’s de-facto annexation policy, Apeirogon by Colum McCann is worth reading more than ever.
added by bergs47 | editPeople's World, Jenny Farrell (Jun 17, 2021)
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCann, ColumAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pera Cucurell, MartaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Sally
First words
The hills of Jerusalem are a bath of fog.
Quotations
The thing about the Occupation is that it never let you decide. It took away your ability for choice. Banish it and choice would appear.
My name is Bassam Aramin. I am the father of Abir. Everything else rose out of that.
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 of the tangle of knowing each other.
Above his desk he tacked a line he remembered from the Persian poet, Rumi: Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I have begun to change myself.
Some people have an interest in keeping the silence. Others have an interest in sowing hatred based on fear. Fear makes money, and it makes laws, and it takes land, and it builds settlements, and fear likes to keep everyone silent.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of intractable conflict that colors every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to take to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend. Theirs is a life in which children from both sides of the wall throw stones at one another. But their worlds shift irreparably when ten-year-old old Abir is killed by a rubber bullet meant to quell unruly crowds, and again when thirteen-year-old Smadar becomes the victim of suicide bombers. When Bassam and Rami learn one another's stories and the loss that connects them, they become part of a much larger tale that ranges over centuries and continents. Apeirogon is a novel that balances on the knife edge of fiction and nonfiction. Bassam and Rami are real men and their actual words are a part of this narrative, one that builds through thousands of moments and images into one grand, unforgettable crescendo"--

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