Monday, September 25, 2006

Real Time

REAL TIME is a novel by Pnina Moed Kass set in Israel and told by multiple narrators varying in age, gender, religion, nationality, and ethnicity. These people are brought together by a Palestinian terrorist (one of the narrators) blowing up a bus on a highway into Jerusalem. If I had to pick three main narrators--I'd pick Thomas Wanninger who is 16, German, and traveling to Israel to volunteer at a kibbutz; Vera Brodsky who is 19, Russian Jew resettled in Israel and living/working at the kibbutz; and Sameh Laham, 16 Palestinian suspected terrorist. Of course, there are at least a dozen more voices that tell the story.

The novel is an honest look at terrorism, and the reality of living in a war zone. Tells all sides of the story--including the Palestinian view on why it is a GREAT thing to be a suicide bomber.

Anyway, I thought this novel is very UNIQUE. I haven't come across many novels set in the Middle East that discuss terrorism, threat of war....etc....

Sameh Laham--
Hard to think I scare anyone. I'm the dishwasher in the diner kitchen, the floor sweeper, the toilet bowl cleaner, I'm sixteen years old, and I live in a small village of Palestinian Arabs. It's not living in Zebedeid that makes me an illegal worker, it's my age. If I were over forty, with gray hair and a clean record, I would have a work permit and a magnetic card. I would swipe the card through the machine at the border, the machine would click, and I would be legal. You would see me, not see through me. Invisible, and I can earn only what my boss takes out of his back pocket. The cash he counts out is what I give my mother so we can all live: food for my two brothers and two sisters, my little brother's kidney pills, flour, oil for cooking, money for clothes. I don't need anything. My boss gives me old pants, someone's T-shirt, and whatever food is left over in the kitchen at the end of the day. All over the world sixteen is paradise, opportunity, girls, cars, everything. I watch television in Omar's house and see sixteen. Sixteen is the beach, your own room, a cell phone, surfing on waves that never end, different clothes for every day of the week, a refridgerator full of ice cream and chocolates, a mother who waits for you in a kitchen with a washing machine and a dishwasher, and a father who comes home from work. That is sixteen. Here sixteen is the magic age of death. No children, no responsibilities, no wife. A sixteen-year-old is a walking grave. Why give a job to someone about to die? Kids who explode themselves and kill Israelis have no future, so don't give them a future" (21-22).

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