Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Collaborator of Bethlehem

Matt Beynon Rees chose wisely when he made the protagonist of The Collaborator of Bethlehem a teacher; Palestinians are said to revere education. Furthermore, Rees’ Omar Yussef teaches history, which makes him a plausible mouthpiece for harsh judgments on modern Arab and Palestinian history and current events, judgments that make him an object of suspicion in the West Bank.

His skepticism naturally makes him a good detective, an avocation he exercises when a friend and former pupil is charged with collaborating with Israel in a killing.

As one might expect, the novel asks probing questions about Palestinians, about their horrible and self-destructive internecine fighting, and about their daily lives. I suspect that partisans of Hamas or Fatah might not like the book, but I also suspect that the rest of us might come away from it with a good deal of sympathy for Palestinians as people rather than as symbols.

Yussef is plagued by doubts from time to time. Having cited the aptness of his profession for an amateur detective, I’ll keep my eyes open to see whether he also commits a sin to which an amateur detective should perhaps be especially prone: overconfidence in his own judgments.

N.B. The Collaborator of Bethlehem is the U.S. title for the novel published in the U.K. under the less resonant name The Bethlehem Murders. The U.K. edition also drops the Beynon from Rees’ name.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my top reads from 2007 - I'll look forward to seeing what you think of it Peter.

January 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You should find out pretty soon what I thought. I finished the book last night. It kept me up to an hour late even by my nocturnal standards.

January 07, 2008  

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