Apeirogon by Colum McCann


I’ve just finished listening to this novel, which feels too, too real to be a novel. Utterly convincing. JNaz brought me to this book with her “Oh my, read this book” post, which feels like a lifetime ago. She did such a great job of describing it that I will try something I have never done. I’ll try to link to it here: https://seasonalreading.com/2020/05/02/oh-my-read-this-book/

I will add that I was so gutted when I reached the halfway point in listening (6 CD’s) that I didn’t know how I would make it through much more, let alone 6 CD’s of “more” but there was something that changed after that. It was still intense but in a different way that I couldn’t put my finger on.

JNaz mentions the recurring motifs, and two that stood out for me were birds, which fly through the entire book (or don’t fly in the case of ortolans) and eyes (devastating).

Masterful writing. It bears repeating: Oh my, read this book.

9 comments on “Apeirogon by Colum McCann”

  1. Teri, thank you. I am so glad that you read/listened to Apeirogon. And yes, gutted is the perfect word. I find myself wondering if the pivot point for you, when you were more able to bear it, coincided with the point in the telling where the chapters begin to reverse order. I am thinking I may need to re read this book…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been wondering about that question myself, JNaz. I don’t know what was going on in the book when the numbers reversed because I didn’t notice it for I don’t know how long. I’d like to go back but I want to get this back to the library ASAP. There’s a long line and the system for getting materials has slowed down. Pickups are available at only six locations across the city now and, recently, many employees have been let go and there are no volunteers. Also, the materials go through a quarantine process when they’re returned.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read reviews when I finished Apeirogon. I learned that McCann wrote 1001 “chapters” alluding to 1001 Arabian Nights. The chapters are numbered from 1-500 and then from 500-1. The middle chapters, both numbered 500, recount each father’s personal experience of his own daughter’s death–words taken from actual source material gathered by McCann. As I read the book, it seemed the chapters moved through time and space in ways that drive home the reality of how one central tragic event can permeate all of life–past, present and future. Backward and forward.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara. I remember that 1001 Nights was referred to in the text, and this “math” is just what I wanted to know–and, yes, those two Chapter 500’s were undoubtedly what was hitting me so hard, after having heard details previous to that so intensely and minutely described pieces of the two stories.

      Everyone involved in the deaths of Abir and Smadar would wish to reverse time. You can count backwards but, as powerful as math is, you can’t reverse time with it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had forgotten that I reserved both the audiobook and the printed book (Large Print version) & now the printed version has come into my hands, after all. I am taking it back, but have flipped through the pages to look at photos and have focused on the two Chapters 500 separated by Chapter 1001. 1001 is set up as a tale, “Once upon a time, and not so long ago, and not so far away, Rami Elhanan, an Israeli…traveled on his motorbike from the suburbs of Jerusalem to the Cremisan monastery…to meet with Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian…a place of intrigue to the listeners…having come from as far apart as Belfast and Kyushu, Paris and North Carolina, Santiago and Brooklyn, Copenhagen and Terezín…to listen to the stories of Bassam and Rami, and to find within their stories another story, a song of songs, discovering themselves–you and me–…


    2. Thank you for fleshing this out, Barbara. As I listened to the book, I did not really have the ability to pin down those specifics. Would explain Teri’s gut punch and release though. I remember that the source material was brutal, painful to hear. I clearly need to get my hands on this book again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, JNaz. I think next time I want to see the book in the print version. It will surely reveal even more, but I would never have wanted to miss hearing McCann read it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Agreed, Teri. His Irish lilt telling this brutal and beautiful story was gorgeous, necessary almost. I think it helped me to hear the story over the pain, the beauty over the brutality. And yes, I must read it with my own eyes next.

        Liked by 1 person

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