Apeirogon is a novel published in 2020 by Irish-American author Colum McCann and is based on a real-life story. The book focuses on the unexpected friendship of two fathers, Palestinian Bassam Aramin and Israeli Rami Elhanan, who connect over the shared loss of their respective daughters. Despite the hatred between the two countries, and the ingrained contempt for each other, they overcome their resentment and bond over their tragic losses. Bassam's daughter was ten years old when she was shot dead by a rubber bullet from the Israeli border police, while Rami's daughter was thirteen when she was killed in an attack by a suicide bomber. The title, Apeirogon, means a shape that has an infinite number of sides, that although small are all connected. It represents the intertwining stories of the fathers as well as McCann's constant references to other stories, such as The Arabian Nights: One Thousand and One Nights, which is referred to through the breaking up of the book into 1,001 individual, short sections.
Colum McCann moved to New York, where he currently lives, after his birth in Dublin, in Ireland. He is best known for his 9/11 novel, Let the Great World Spin, which received international acclaim and was awarded US National Book Award for Fiction in 2009 as well as the International Dublin Literary Award in 2011. McCann has received several honorary degrees throughout his career, including those from Queen's University in Belfast and the Dublin Institute of Technology, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010.
The novel Apeirogon touches on a variety of topics, from the Israel-Palestine conflict to the power of storytelling. Throughout the narrative, McCann emphasizes the importance of understanding and respecting the individual stories of both sides, rather than viewing them through a more general and abstract lens. Despite their differences, Bassam and Rami come to an understanding, which is symbolized by the apeirogon, and they eventually travel together to speak to schoolchildren in different parts of the world. The book also highlights the importance of education and understanding as a means of achieving peace and reconciliation. Additionally, McCann uses a variety of techniques to emphasize the power of stories, such as breaking up the novel into 1,001 sections and using an array of characters to illustrate different perspectives.
Apeirogon has gained immense praise from both readers and critics alike, with many praising McCann for his ability to craft such a powerful story. The novel has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, as well as nominated for the 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. In addition, the book has also received several awards, such as the Prix Cezam InterCELLULES, which is awarded to works of literature that promote peace, and the Prix des Lecteurs, which honors works of extraordinary character and depth. The novel has also been named a New York Times Notable Book of 2020 and was featured in the Best Books of the Year list by the New York Times Book Review. Through Apeirogon, McCann has not only crafted a powerful story of friendship and understanding in the face of tragedy but has also highlighted the power of education and storytelling to bring peace and reconciliation.