Thursday, 14 February 2008

Recycled: Der bewaffnete Freund

Here's another good'un. Book, that is. It got me all tense and uncommunicative - that's a good thing in a book, I find, if not in a prescription drug.

It's about a young man who ends up driving a wanted Basque terrorist/freedom fighter across Spain - not something you'd really want to do. It starts out like one of those German books where nothing much happens in a foreign country (unlike the standard not much happening in Germany). The guy is an academic (not a promising characteristic in a novel) working on some research project in a place referred to as X throughout. In fact, although it's obvious, we are never told that the book is about ETA - a nice device that heightens the air of conspiracy. You get lots of descriptions of his rather lukewarm relationships with his daughter, his ex-girlfriend and his new not-quite boyfriend. The best bits at this stage are the surpressed arguments with his German and Spanish professors and his thoughts on European border policy. He's torn between supporting the Basque separatists on an emotional level and rejecting the way they define their aims and use murder to make their point.

Then suddenly, an old friend sends a messenger to ask him to drive him from France to Spain. Unfortunately, that old friend is a wanted man and the price for supporting terrorists is 5 years in prison, often accompanied by torture. Tough decision.
But the guy decides to do it, for all sorts of strange reasons. Ultimately, it's something you'd almost wish for - the chance to argue it out with someone whose cause you support, but whose methods you abhor. But the second half of the book is far less intellectual than the first, where all the arguments are basically set out. In fact, it has a quite racy tempo and you almost expect car chases and sirens. While you read the first half with your brain, the second half is for your heart. And that's kind of the whole premise of the book, with the "hero" gradually becoming more and more human.

Raul Zelik is an overtly and unapologetically political writer. But he manages to put across his message in such a way that reading him is not some kind of worthy activity for politniks alone. It's genuinely fun or entertaining or nerve-wracking or, at times, carpet-biting and shoe-on-the-lectern-banging.
I reccommend you try it.

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