I have just finished listening to Colum McCann’s new book and found it mesmerizing. It is referred to as A NOVEL but, to my ear, was really more like an extended prose poem. Sometimes it was like listening to a painting. Read by the author, his Irish colors everything. And his intent and delivery are so clear. It is a beautiful book. It is also a heartbreaking book. It is also a book that outrages.
Apeirogon tells the story of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli. Both having lost young daughters to the conflict that rages in their homeland, they develop a deep and unbreakable friendship. McCann weaves their stories together, weaves stories of the cultural and social and natural history that surround them. Their stories are both personal and universal. Many varied subjects make an appearance and are woven into the story – the migration of birds, the music of John Cage, the theory of amicable numbers. This book is a whole cloth, it is tapestry, time travel. The story is written from many perspectives. It includes fiction, science, mathematics, non fiction transcript. None of the chapters are particularly long, some are a single sentence or phrase. Many are repeated.
As to format, I think if I had a read a print copy of the book, there are things I may have understood more fully, could have referred back to, that kind of thing. But listening to it really, really brought out the life in the book, the lives in the book, its beauty and terror. This book will stay with me for a long, long time. McCann is a master story teller, a master painter of language.