Sabra Zoo

Mischa Hiller, Telegram (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (231p) ISBN 978-1846590771
In 1982, seven years after the start of the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut was invaded by Israeli forces intent on expelling the PLO. In September, Sabra (one of two refugee camps) was the site of a massacre when Israelis allowed Phalangists to enter the camp. Hiller's impressive debut is a fictionalized account of the moments leading up to and including this event, as well as its aftermath. Briskly narrated by 18-year-old Ivan, a translator whose work with international medical volunteers is complicated by his courier duties with the PLO, the novel assiduously follows friends and lovers as they attempt to establish routines during tense days. With sobering realism, Hiller reveals how war can become an abstraction for those accustomed to bombings and threats, even as it remains a destabilizing presence. Such hair-trigger tension between maintaining business as usual and watching over his shoulder gradually wears on Ivan, who must decide between staying or leaving. Despite a few graphic descriptions of mutilation, Hiller eschews a sense of voyeurism, and concludes the novel in the realm of the humane. Sabra Zoo is a welcome addition to the literature of witness, capturing youth at an unthinkable crossroads. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Paperback - 230 pages - 978-1-84659-093-1
Open Ebook - 108 pages - 978-1-84659-102-0
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