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Saturday, 16 June 2012

2012 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist - Limassol - Yishai Sarid

Before I start on my latest review I would like to pass on my congratulations to the winner and my sincere thanks to the judges of this years IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for their foresight and boldness in giving the prize to the best book on the list (Jon McGregor’s “Even the Dogs”), even though the controversial subject matter could upset a large number of readers, homelessness, alcoholism and heroin abuse are real subjects that do need to be tacked by the arts and it is wonderful to see such a noble novel winning the gong.

Onto Limassol, this novel comes from the “World Noir” collection and even though you could almost see it being a black and white cynical movie, with a mysterious femme fatale, it is no “Double Indemnity”.

Translated from Hebrew and written in the first person our protagonist is an Israeli secret service agent, who is undertaking an undercover style mission posing as a successful share market trader who is really a frustrated writer needing guidance. Outside of his plot to entice the sensual Daphna he works through the night as a hard-nosed violent interrogator who lacks emotion and wants to see the streets cleared of suicide bombers. He’s rarely home to visit his wife Sigi and four year old child, and given his alienation from his own family his son is interestingly referred to throughout as “the child”. Any attempts at family reconciliation always seem to be interrupted by an important secret service event, he doesn’t even have the time to discuss his wife’s proposal to move to Boston!!

At times some of the writing did appear laboured, however this could be the fault of the translator, or it could be the nature of Hebrew, of which I know little, or even the nuances of Israeli humour. At other times I was enlightened by a wonderful quote or two:

You can never be sorry for silence, only for chatter.

This quote comes after our main character feels guilty after a visit to an “advisor” where he spoke his mind, the visit compulsory as he has to explain his violent actions during interrogations – the irony of him confessing to the extraction of information from tortured “arabs” in this section is intriguing in itself.

Essentially an espionage novel with a moral heart, messages of Gaza politics, unrequited (will it remain so? ) romance and a story of hope this was an easy read.

“…You can liquidate a hundred terrorists in the Kasbah, nobody will notice that. But see what enormous headlines their liquidation will make. People pay money to see a matador finish off a dangerous bull, books are written about it, they decorate him with flowers, but nobody wants to buy tickets for a simple slaughterhouse.”

Not the worst book on the shortlist by a long shot but not one of top 3. I’ll post a review of “Lean on Pete” soon which I recently finished.
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