ContemporaryApeirogon by Colum McCann

Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Apeirogon (an infinitely sided shape in case you didn’t know, which I most certainly didn’t — and I still don’t know how to pronounce it) is the story of two fathers — the Palestinian Bassam and the Israeli Rami — who both lost their young daughters; Abir is killed by an Israeli soldier as she walks out of a newsagent, Smadar by a suicide bomber while out with friends. 

Firstly, what I loved; parts of McCann’s writing are genuinely beautiful and moving. I truly felt the tragedies and complexities of both sides of this conflict. He is an incredibly talented writer with a real ability to place the reader in the thick of a scene. But — the structure. A lot of reviewers found this brilliant — so perhaps I missed a trick on this front. Split into 1001 chapters to replicate the 1001 Arabian Nights, I actually found this off-putting. It made the novel very disjointed and a real challenge to immerse myself in. This is absolutely not popular opinion — Apeirogon has been widely acclaimed. Rather awkwardly, though, I feel I just didn’t really ‘get it’.

~ Sophie

I wrestled with this. It definitely made me challenge my views. Overarching themes are living with grief and trying to break the endless cycle of violence, hate and revenge. The composition is peripatetic and disconcerting – like reading many articles through a shattered mirror and infinite shards. I wonder if the author wanted to create unease to engender that feeling of chaos but for me it dampened the impact of the story at its heart. 

Is this truly a novel when most of the content is based on facts, transcripts and other people’s testimony? It’s more a collation of tenuously connected Wikipedia entries interspersed with the gripping and heart breaking accounts of two families. Some of the segments are fascinating and the writing is excellent. The book was frequently exasperating with a distracting focus on incongruent topics. Positively – the rapturous applause provides attention to people whose lives have been irrevocably torn apart and their astounding message of peace. I found this thought provoking, at times utterly frustrating and completely unique.

~ Chaya

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