“On moonless nights the men and boys of Jableh, a dusty fishing town on the coast of Syria, would gather their lanterns and set out in their quietest boats…”
America likes rules. After the 10 commandments came another 10,000 lesser imperatives. No jaywalking. No ball games here. No smoking. No blacks. US media is saturated with law and order, the badge, the police dramas, the wild west, the urban badlands.
And then came hurricane Katrina to blow the whole of New Orleans to splinters and wash the the streets with mud from the broken levies. And here we have Zeitoon, the last man standing, or more accurately paddling, in New Orleans. The man who broke the rule and stayed behind.
Unfortunately for him, the hurricane did not blow away the laws and new lawmen (and unlawful men) who would return. This is not a fiction but the real life experience of Abdulrahman Zeitoon as told to Dave Eggers, better known for his quarterly literary review McSweeney’s and his fiction but here working in faction, a po faced telling of one man’s American super-sized nightmare (which also has a real life sequel, and that is discounting Syria itself).
Faction is an underused format these days but more worthwhile than a lot of what Joseph O’Connor refers to as so much wilber, apeing life rather than portraying it. This is a first class example of the genre, reportage as novel.
The opening imagery above of the fishermen taking their lanterns to lure the sardines on dark nights is poetically drawn image of the helicopters to come…