The past is done. I can’t change the fact the first president of Israel was born in Ireland. No more than I change that he was born on the island of Ireland as distinct from being born in a unified nation of Ireland that does not exist. He appears to have taken troubles with him, created by a mitosis that produced two daughter troubles.
The future may not be done but it seems that while the die is cast, those who will die are never finalised. I cannot change the fact that Israel will annex more Palestinian lands from the West Bank this week. Teflon Netanyahu has vowed it. Entrepreneur Trump supports it. Some agencies have warned that this is a war crime. Is a war crime wilful if such opinions are ignored? Is a crime during time of war different to an act of war?
This future annexation will soon be a deed done in the past. What is the chance there will be reconsideration before reconciliation becomes even more difficult?
I’ve been reading Apeirogon for the last few days. I don’t read much fiction these days and if I did, I’d want every novel to be this powerful. Though this is called a novel, the strength of it is that perhaps it’s not a novel. It’s something else, perhaps a new form. A tale of two unlikely friends who share a bond through grief for the pointless deaths of a daughter. And it is so much more.
The evident shame described in Apeirogon is that we, we the world, allow war crimes to continue.
Colum McCann has managed to engage me very deeply in this incredible narrative. I am so affected by it that I find myself in introspections, seeking my own petty guilts and oversights. I find there are a surprising number of guilts buried very deep, most born of immaturity and ignorance, some of inattention and a few born of omission. McCann has somehow caused them to leach out from their brain-sponge storage sites to be flushed along by his narrative. My guilts percolate towards my consciousness, these shames of mine, potent even though diluted by age and the degradations of their resurrection.
I can hardly leave a page without it having resurrected some of my pasts. Trivial though they are in the context of this story, some of my guilts are stalking me. Fortunately, the count of pleasant flotsams on my oceans of experience significantly outnumber and outweigh the icebergs of guilt. Some might consider this an exhausting process but I find it invigorating.
This book, Apeirogon, is simply brilliant if only for making me think. It’s brilliant for lots of reasons you can read if you search for reviews or buy it and read the covers. There are supporters and detractors, some of whom express vile political opinions rather than literary criticisms. Palestinians are not the only victims. Nor Zionists. There are 70 million others forcibly displaced beyond the confines of this book. Spare some thoughts for them too.
And Apeirogon has made me reconsider outrage. McCann reminds us to remember that youth tries to change the world, the wise change themselves.
McCann has a wonderful example of Chinese Whispers in his Chapter 146 that illustrates how a key event morphs depending on who tells you about it. Israeli Whispers. Palestinian Whispers. Conflict Whispers. Call fake news what you like but news was weaponised centuries ago.
The UN launched the Verified campaign on May 21st. I hope the idea catches on.
Martina Devlin interviewed Colum McCann for City of Books recently. You can listen to her tenth podcast for the Dublin UNESCO City of Literature initiative in which McCann talks about his hope that Apeirogon could contribute to peace.
Perhaps you’ll listen but read Apeirogon for sure. You may not agree with everything in the book but you will be better informed. You will be thinking, and I hope more aware. And besides, you won’t regret knowing about Apeirogon and McCann when they share awards in the future as surely they must.