From the National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin. 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 attends. 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.
...[a] powerful and prismatic new novel.... This novel, divided into 1,001 fragmentary chapters...reflects the infinite complications that underlie the girls’ deaths, and the unending grief that follows ... these fathers’ grief-stricken voices are already part of the public consciousness ... They’re also the most intimate pages of the book, and the most difficult to read ... McCann’s brilliant act of novel-making builds a wholly believable and infinitely faceted reality around Rami’s and Bassam’s first-person accounts, a rich and comprehensive context that allows us into the fathers’ experiences, their histories, their minds ... the novel succeeds brilliantly at its larger project ... Reading Apeirogon we move beyond an understanding of Rami and Bassam’s grief from the outside; we begin to share it ... Apeirogon is an empathy engine, utterly collapsing the gulf between teller and listener ... it allows us to inhabit the interiority of human beings who are not ourselves. It achieves its aim by merging acts of imagination and extrapolation with historical fact. But it’s indisputably a novel, and, to my mind, an exceedingly important one. It does far more than make an argument for peace; it is, itself, an agent of change.
It’s a strange time for a novel as full-hearted as Apeirogon. It feels as if the situation in the Middle East is always a reflection of its age ... Now each side has retreated into belligerent isolation, with Donald Trump gleefully fanning the flames of discord. But perhaps that’s the point – the desperation of the situation has brought forth a work of art whose beauty, intelligence and compassion may go some way to changing things. Is it absurd to suggest that a novel might succeed where generations of politicians have failed? Perhaps, but then Apeirogon is the kind of book that comes along only once in a generation ... You don’t read Apeirogon so much as feel it, as the particular tragedies of Bassam and Rami are lived out in an ever-present moment of loss ... For all its grief, Apeirogon is a novel that buoys the heart. The friendship of Bassam and Rami is a thing of great and sustaining beauty ... This, the novel suggests, is the solution to the conflict: something as simple and easy as friendship, as the acknowledgement of a shared experience, as love. I kept thinking as I read it about all the ways that Apeirogon could have failed, about the ammunition it might have provided to all of those who claim that no one should write a novel that reaches beyond their own particular experience. It could have been maudlin, tawdry, exploitative, trite. Instead, it’s a masterpiece, a novel that will change the world, and you don’t hear that very often.
This remarkable, complex novel demonstrates what has become a tenet of its author’s work: 'One story becoming another,' as he writes ... McCann is adept at transforming history into fiction in a way that brings the reader to view that history anew; he is a writer who forges connections that would otherwise go unseen ...
With Apeirogon, this bold novelist enters fraught political territory with courage and imagination. There is no simple way to approach this kind of material, and so McCann takes the novel form and cracks it open: the book is composed of 1,000 chapters, some only a single line long. They are numbered up to 500 before heading back down to one again — recognition that stories such as those of Elhanan and Aramin can have no linear trajectory. Yet McCann ensures that as the novel expands and folds back in on itself, the reader never feels lost: one of the book’s feats is the way that clarity of exposition is combined with formal experimentation ... Apeirogon: a shape with a countably infinite number of sides ... It’s a clumsy title for a novel, one might argue, a title requiring explanation. Still, this remarkable book rises to embody the geometric form, folding an uncountable number of stories within itself, the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, stretching back into the past and off into the future. It is a daring, humane achievement.