4 de 5 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
- Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato: Tapa dura
In Osama, Lavie Tidhar has created the ultimate in escapist fiction, a world where Osama Bin Laden is only a character in a book, where the acts of destruction and terror he was responsible for are only parts of a fictional canon. Indeed, the acts are outlandish and nearly inconceivable in the world Tidhar renders, comprehendible only as over the top pulp fiction.
Osama begins like many detective novels, as a client seeks out a detective to locate someone. Not just anyone, mind you, but the famous writer Mike Longshott, author of the popular Osama Bin-Laden: Vigilante series, which includes the novels Sinai Bombings, Assignment: Africa, and World Trade Centre. Longshott is a reclusive celebrity, the beneficiary of cultish adoration, on the level of a J. K. Rowling or a Stephanie Meyer.
The detective who takes the case is just a guy named Joe; his investigations take him from Vientiane, Laos, to Paris, to America, and eventually to Afghanistan. Along the way, Joe meets a number of stock characters--dangerous thugs, broken women, fat men, recalcitrant bartenders, and the like--and lives through a number of stock situations, such as shaking tails, breathless chases, and taking beatings from the opposition. Along the way, he encounters the facades that have been erected to insulate the man he's been asked to find, and the facades that perhaps conceal the entryways to another reality entirely, one where the outlandish events depicted in the Longshott books are the stuff of everyday headlines.
In creating a reality where the only landscape the war on terror occupies is fictional, Tidhar has created an effective, but less painful way, for his readers to look at, and try to comprehend, the enormous effect terrorism has had on their lives, and more importantly, their psyches. Indeed, Osama, shortly before he was killed, had become a boogeyman on the level of Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, the only difference being that he had actually committed horrifc acts. Making him fictional, and interspersing excerpts of his exploits as breaks in the noirish mystery story being told, allows readers to approach the subject at an angle, and to think about their impact with the benefit of a little distance. By positing a world where Osama is only a fictional demon, Tidhar not only allows us to escape from our awful reality for a moment, but also to take a step back and consider just what we've lost over the past decade, in terms of comfort, blood, and the erosion of freedoms we once took for granted.
5 de 6 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
- Publicado en Amazon.com
Formato: Tapa blanda
With Osama, Lavie Tidhar isn't writing about the moments of horror that make up the connect-the-dots of modern terrorism. He's writing about their reflections.
And noir, with its long history of engaging with questions of violence and culpability, seems an obvious way to try to access, and personalize, a story about terrorism. So it makes sense that Osama is a noir. And not just some run-of-the-mill the-author-just-watched-The-Maltese-Falcon rip-off, either, although Tidhar hits all the right beats: the staccato dialogue, the curling smoke, the steaming coffee, the chases through the chiaroscuro of grimy city streets.
Joe's a consummate everyman, an anonymous PI out of place and happy to be there. Set in a world without terrorism, Osama begins as all good hardboiled novels begin: a beautiful woman walks into Joe's office and offers him a job - find Mike Longshott, the apparently pseudonymous author of the wildly popular, critically derided Osama: Vigilante series of pulp novels. All expenses paid, of course. The chase leads Joe from one end of the world to the other; in his wake he trails confusion and violence, while each clue leads him to question not only his employment, but his own life.
But Osama isn't a straight-up hardboiled novel. It's a noir. And the best noir isn't about the mystery, or the atmosphere - although they're both important components of the whole. At base, noir is about character; that is, a character. A single person, in search of something. Noir requires a complex point-of-view character, someone who's both wholly certain of himself and entirely lost. An shadowy person, in a series of shadowy settings, searching not just for answers to some mystery-for-hire, but for himself. Noir protagonists are not standard hard-boiled detective characters, a la Sam Spade; they're intimately involved in whatever event has set the plot rolling - not as detectives, but as victims or perpetrators. Or both.
If Dashiell Hammett's modern twist to the mystery novel was to "dispose of his victims before the story commences," then Tidhar takes it a step further. His victims are fictional twice over, disposed of not only before the story commences but in stories within that story. Tidhar excerpts the terrorist attacks from Mike Longshott's Osama novels to punctuate Joe's search for Longshott. Except, Tidhar's readers recognize their own reality in those excerpts, those powerful, chillingly accurate depictions of the terrorist attacks on places like London and New York. Joe's search for the pseudonymous Longshott becomes a search for the fictional Osama - but the more Joe engages with his quest to find Longshott, the more the barrier between the fictional and the real begins to dissolve.
These excerpts provide a kind of commentary on the scale and apparent meaninglessness of those deaths - the exploitative nature of pulp writing, where death is presented as entertainment, weighed against the scale and apparent meaninglessness of those same deaths, in our reality. There's death in-between the two, as well; Joe's own reality is likewise punctuated with awful violence - a dead kitten, a murdered contact. The scale is different, but the violence is still apparently without meaning. Except, of course, it's not: this is fiction within fiction: the fictional-fictional world of the Osama novels and Joe's own fictional world (and, unfortunately, our own world, in which we recognize the fictional gloss over very real events).
In every case, death comes at the hands of someone who sincerely believed he was doing the right thing. Terrorism in Joe's world is entertainment, though we find it an awful, painful reminder of our own grim reality. But we're reading Osama for entertainment, ourselves, and the deaths that Joe experiences are there to increase our reading pleasure - to give his character depth, to progress the plot, to contribute thematic heft to the narrative. Tidhar confronts his readers, again and again, with their own engagement with violence, forcing us to question what we read, and why we read it.
[This review first appeared as part of The Kitschies]