WINNER OF THE 2011 COMMONWEALTH WRITER’S PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST BOOK
Summer 1982: Beirut is under siege.
Eighteen-year-old Ivan’s parents have just been evacuated from the city with other members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Ivan stays on, interpreting for international medical volunteers in Sabra refugee camp and working undercover for the PLO. Hoping to get closer to Eli, a Norwegian physiotherapist, he helps her treat Youssef, a camp orphan disabled by a cluster bomb. An unexpected friendship develops between the three and things begin to look up.
But events take a nasty turn when the president-elect is assassinated. The Israeli army enters Beirut and surrounds the camp, with Eli and Youssef trapped inside. What happens next makes international headlines and leaves Ivan scrabbling to salvage something positive from the chaos.
About the Author
Of English & Palestinian descent Mischa Hiller was born in England in 1962 and grew up in London, Beirut, and Dar El-Salaam. Author of Sabra Zoo (Telegram) and Shake Off (Telegram), he was a semifinalist in the 2007 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting and winner of the 2009 European Independent Film Festival script competition for his adaptation of Sabra Zoo. He is also a runner-up in the 2006 Bridport short story competition.
'A stunning, defiant debut.'
'Hiller's descriptions of the victims and traumatised survivors, through Ivan's eyes, are harrowing and heartfelt but never overwrought. In a few pages, he creates a truly terrifying vision of hell. The unforgettable stench he evokes, the images of dismembered children, and the corpse of a woman who has had her foetus cut out of her, will remain with me. His simple prose is all the more powerful when compared with the almost playful tone used to recount Ivan's rites of passage with Eli. It is a bold shift into the heart of darkness.'
'A gripping novel about the conflict between personal and political loyalties.'
'A moving debut … Hauntingly written, with a wonderful touch for human feelings … If Hiller can reproduce its beauty and strength he will be a name to conjure with.'
'Vividly realised … This darkly humorous, often harrowing novel demonstrates that in the chaos of conflict there are no easy or obvious decisions.'
Metro, 4 Stars
'A searing and accomplished novel that takes the reader back to the bloody events in Beirut in summer 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Hiller delineates his characters, even minor ones, with skill, and the dialogue is expertly pitched.'
'A really excellent book, combining solid and insightful characterisation with a fully realised environment, and moments of powerful tension. Had it been written fifty years ago about World War Two, it might now be seen as a minor classic.'
The Fiction Desk
'An unsentimental and unforgettable thriller.'