Context: My bedtime book in our wonderful bed at Piddington.
I was at a friend’s house and spied this on the shelf. “One of the best books that I’ve read in my life,” she said. Couldn’t resist that could I? Glad I didn’t.
Keenan is a poet born to write. And if he hadn’t been kidnapped, I never would have read him. It’s like his kidnapping produced a situation that unlocked the depths of his soul. Then, having done that much, found the trapdoor in its floor and plunged downward to take him through the chasms that lie, usually unexplored, in each of us.
Few have ever been where Keenan takes you. His portrayal of over 4 years spent at the hands of Lebanese captors in the 1980s provide us with a fully fledged description of the extent of a human life. As he struggled to maintain his sanity, to establish handholds which would prevent him going into a downward freefall, he is able not only to realise what he is going through but, years later, to actually write it down which, in itself, must have been harrowing.
One of the most remarkable scenes in the book breaks on you so unexpectedly that you understand something of how surprised he felt at the time. Repeatedly, he comes across new areas of his psyche that he’d never before known to have existed and this is what makes the book a fascinating study of humanity. The most memorable of these for me was the compassion that comes across him for one of his most sadistic guards. It is astoundingly moving.
The book is at once poignant but also graphically shocking and that this spectrum is all so carefully constructed displays his skill as a writer. One wonders what literary trivia he would have pedalled had he never had this experience.
It’s always difficult to find a beginning.
that the human mind can travel into those dark regions and return exhausted but intact is more a miracle than that word can ever convey
the more we discover the different degrees and different aspects of our own unhappiness the greater our capacity to sympathise instinctively or to reach out to someone in distress
Freedom comes slowly at first.
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