Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Irish Writer, Colum McCann.


“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.” Colum McCann


It could also be called a work of creative journalism.


Apeirogon: a generalized polygon with a countably infinite number of sides.


At the core of the book is the murder of two girls, ten years apart and their respective fathers, Remi Elhanan, Israeli and Bassam Aramin, Palestinian. These are not novelistic characters; they are the guts of non-fiction.


There is no narrative arc. Instead the story emerges like the image of a jigsaw emerges as each piece finds its place. This is a story with 1001 pieces but not in the order you would expect. The pieces tell us about the times, birds, geography, music, backstory, names, politicians, and newsworthy events like the tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, who walked across the Hinnom Valley in 1987 and released a white dove of peace (actually it was a pale pigeon but Petit hoped no-one would notice). The ‘pieces’ or ‘chapters’ are pages long, one line long, or 4 words long.


At ‘chapter’ 500 we hear Rami Elhanan’s voice. For many pages he tells us about his daughter, about her murder, about his grief, and what he did with it. McCann’s piecing together of the narrative is lengthy, emotional, journalistic, and sometimes moving, as journalism can be. It’s like the ‘chapters’ 1– 499 have all prepared you for this one, 500. Then the next chapter is 1001 and you don’t know why so you read on to find out. Ah! We have ‘chapter’ 500 again but this time we hear Bassam Aramin’s voice, his loss, his grief and then the chapter numbers descend; at the the centre of the book are the voices of these two men.


Bassam Aramin and Remi Elhanan


In 1997 a young girl, Smadar Elhanan, was the victim of a suicide bomber, her body battered with shrapnel. Abir Aramin, a young girl, was shot in the back of the head with a rubber bullet by her school gate. She had just bought candy. Smadar was born in Hadassah hospital. Where Abir died.


The two fathers turned their grief, rage, and hatred into friendship, reconciliation, and hope. They travelled the world telling their stories, their daughters, their loss.


At the 2016 Young Presidents’ Organisation EDGE (annual showcase of thought leadership and innovation) in Dubai, Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan gave a moving and inspirational account of the close friendship they formed after each lost a precious daughter to violence in Israel.

Listen to them here.


Listen to Colum McCann talk about this book.


Bassam and Remi are members of a not-for-profit organisation called The Parents Circle Family Forum.


The Parents Circle Family Forum works towards an end to violence and towards achieving an accepted political agreement.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for elections has thrown his political future into peril, forcing him to negotiate competing demands to engage with a friendlier U.S. administration, mend the rift with his militant Hamas rivals and keep his unruly Fatah movement from breaking apart.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appeared in a Jerusalem courtroom to formally plead not guilty to corruption charges just weeks before national elections in which he hopes to extend his 12-year rule.


The PCFF members are opposed to the occupation and believe that it is possible to end the conflict. They wish to influence the public and the political decision makers to choose reconciliation and the path of peace over violence and war.

One thought on “Apeirogon by Colum McCann

  1. Pingback: from a low and quiet sea by Donal Ryan – Michael K Freundt

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