What does one say about Assaf Gavron’s book ‘Almost Dead’? I’ve been pondering this review for a few days now. It is such a complex and disturbing text that it is difficult to know where to begin and whether, indeed, the author has achieved any sort of textual integrity in this text.
To start with, the book’s premise itself is complex – half the text is devoted to the narrative of an Israeli who narrowly escapes from three terrorist attacks in one week in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The other half of the book tells the story of the brother of the mastermind behind these attacks who has been coaxed into joining the struggle and enlisted to perform the final attack much against his will and his conscience. If this isn’t a challenging enough structure, Gavron complicates things further by narrating the Arab protagonist in a series of stream of consciousness recollections for, as readers discover through the telling, he is in a coma following his failed final attack.
Behind this complex dialogue between Arab and Israeli, thrown in the mix are a romance, friendship and a bit of detective work.
It is a lot to cover and for the first part of the book I was unsure if the author was going to meet this challenge. I actually found myself wondering if I had missed something central, feeling lost in the confusion of the various strands of narratives and the way they were woven together.
However, by the end of this tale, I was hooked. Gavron has achieved something monumental here and I was enthralled to read the internal thoughts of these characters. Interestingly, I think that he captured the Arab protagonist with more clarity than he did the Israeli who seemed far more self absorbed and concerned with his emotions than his counterpart. In itself this is an interesting comment to make about Israeli society which perhaps has the freedom to be self absorbed.
Strangely enough I found these characters to be very believable and this story itself not too far fetched. But, it is a weighty subject and although captivating, quite disturbing. Readers would have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle this one, but well worth it I would say!