Sunday, 28 March 2010

Another two books

A joy to see such a readable article in the Guardian magazine: an extract from Rupert Thomson's memoir This Party's Got To Stop. The writing is sublime. I can't remember the last time I finished an article in the mag.

I am halfway through - and loving - Mischa Hiller's first novel, Sabra Zoo. It's 1982 and we see the Israeli siege of Beirut and the shocking events which followed through the eyes of 18-year-old Ivan, half Palestinian and half Danish, whose parents have left. Ivan is in many ways a typical boy/man - getting drunk and stoned nightly, lusting after an older woman - but in this novel, context is everything. Working as an interpreter in the camp hospital and as a courier of fake documents for the PLO, his friends are not the usual teenager's friends, his flat is the hangout for a ragtag of international medical volunteers. He witnesses horrors that most teenagers will never see, children burned and limbless. I like the understated tone of the narrative, the lack of hyperbole. There is a lovely recurrent image of a candle in a Chianti bottle - so ordinary and everyday.

Mischa Hiller was diagnosed with ME a few years ago. Here he speaks about how his experiences of living in Lebanon informed this novel, and also of how ME has impacted on his life. I was very pleased - and surprised!- to find myself quoted. I wish him all the best with Sabra Zoo.

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