Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sabra Zoo by Mischa Hiller

Sabra Zoo
by Mischa Hiller
Telegram Books 2011

Review by Ramona Wadi

Sabra Zoo delves deeper into the reality behind the distortion of media headlines and propaganda hype. An intriguing novel which allows the reader to bond with the circle of characters who, despite courage, ideals and determination, are coerced into various roles alternating between activism, humanitarian aid, undercover work and helpless spectators.

Ivan, a teenager holding Danish and Palestinian citizenship decides to remain in Lebanon after his parents are evacuated. Whilst working as an interpreter in Sabra refugee camp, he is also working undercover for the PLO. Ivan befriends Youssef - an orphan receiving medical aid after being disabled by a cluster bomb. He also harbours feelings for Eli, the Norwegian physiotherapist who, in turn, is plagued by doubts of her own.

The assassination of the president-elect is the prologue of a massacre in Beirut. A massacre is carried out by the Israeli army as it enters Beirut, and the scene becomes the camp story franchised into international headlines. The stench of war crimes - rape, mass execution and decapitation force Ivan to face the quest for survival and search for Youssef - a final attempt at saving a fragment of humanity from Sabra.

Mischa Hiller's novel exposes the philosophy of war and weapons - a permanent quest of destruction which deems it comprehensible to debate whether it is better to kill or maim, as with cluster bombs. Discarding the formula of narrating the sensationalism of war, Sabra Zoo compels readers to question their role in the wake of atrocities which spectators consider an inevitable outcome. There seems to be a possibility that if people replace staring at images on television screens with the acrid vision of the aftermath of the massacre, humanity might start acknowledging its responsibility towards its own race.

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