I have to admit, I was taken so much by this book by the first paragraph, that I neglected things in my real life until I absolutely had to do them.
What would you do if the place you have called your home wouldn’t allow you to return if you wanted to?
Serey is caught in that situation. Currently living in Montreal where he meets Anne who is much younger in a jazz club. As Serey’s country is currently in the midst of a revolution, which includes murder, tragedy of such magnitude which leaves 1/7th of the population dead. The last he has heard from his family was years ago.
At first when Anne’s father hears of the relationship, he is against it because it reminds him so much of his own with Anne’s mother before she was killed in a car crash. He feels this is too close to home for it to be re lived again in another sense with his daughter.
Her mother essentially gave up her career, her life so to speak, to be able to marry and raise their daughter. Her father on the other hand is one that immerses himself into his work and to only come up for air when he absolutely needs to. Being a single father hasn’t been the most enjoyable experience for one that has been an academic most of his life, but he had help along the way.
Anne, being 16 and we all know at that age, when most teenagers don’t listen to her father’s advice and continues the relationship – going to jazz clubs, hanging out, learning words from his language, learning more and more about his culture and where he is from before the revolution began. Serey after a time decides it is time to return to his homeland to see what has happened to his family members, and to try and pick up the pieces of a life he once knew.
10 years later, Anne simply cannot get Serey out of her mind. Although, it has been so much time, you really cannot forget your first love. She has gotten on with her life – going to university, working, her love is just that a small part of her life. Until she makes the decision to travel to Cambodia one night when she thinks she sees Serey on television during footage of a demonstration there.
Despair is an unwitnessed life.
Once she arrives, she wanders around the busy streets of people trading and selling their wares illegally until she comes across some other ex pats who are there to help the people, and to rebuild. Once she finds Serey, it was if those 10 years never existed.
I was taken away from the first paragraph like I had stated at the beginning of this book. The writing is written like prose in poetry, moving and swaying with the jazz music that first brought them together. Although, from two different countries, there is a common thread throughout, their undying love for another, the differences of thinking between the 2 lovers, and the journey of love itself amongst war and tragedy.
I see your long silence as I see war, an urge to conquer. You used silence to guard your territory and told yourself you were protecting me. I was outside the wall, an intoxicating foreign land to occupy. I wondered what other secrets you guarded. Our disappeared were everywhere, irresistable, in waking, in sleeping, a reason for violence, a reason for forgiveness, destroying the peace we tried to posess, creeping between us as we dreamed, leaving us haunted by the knowledge that history is not redeemed by either peace or war but only fingered to shreds and left to our children. But I could not leave you, and I could not forget, and I did not know what to do, and I always loved you beyond love.
The Disappeared has been longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize for 2009.
Penguin / Hamish Hamilton Books
Scotiabank Giller Longlist of nominees – The shortlist will be announced on Tuesday October 6, 2009