Colum McCann: Apeirogon

October 26, 2021

That the structure becomes a container for the human music.

In an interview about Apeirogon, Colum McCann likened novelists to architects who create a structure aspiring that it will house the best of human endeavor and hope for it to endure, and for people to enter and be changed by it… and so that it becomes “a container for the human music”.

Isn’t that the definition of a classic? But isn’t that a most beautiful definition of a classic?

I have not come upon a review that has done this book justice, and I will not attempt to write one; because perhaps it is one of those novels that is done justice only by being read.

Shattered and sobbing by the middle of the book, and yet I come out of this changed and brimming. I had no inkling that form-wise, it would also be one of the most extraordinary I would encounter — and to think I have just been through the Lebanese. Written in 1001 cantos, a nod to A Thousand and One Nights.

You’d think you already know how the story goes; it is based on the real story of two fathers, after all. One Palestinian, one Israeli, whose daughters are killed; one by a rubber bullet, one by suicide bombers. You’d think you already know how the story will be told. Apeirogon will prove you wrong in the most wondrous way.

It is about people who have experienced the profoundest pain but who choose to soften instead of harden their hearts, who have learned the distinction between justice and revenge; people violently nonviolent.

And it is especially for those who are trapped in the thinking that there is only one side, or two sides; for those imprisoned in their convictions that one side is purely evil and one side is purely innocent.

“𝐖𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐦 𝐰𝐞’𝐫𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐛𝐲 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫.”

This book has many sides. Apeirogon: a shape with a countably infinite number of sides. From the Greek word apeiron, which means to be boundless, to be endless. Something that cannot be drawn, it can only be suggested. This book has art, mathematics, music, architecture, literature.

This book is art, mathematics, music, architecture, and literature.

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