The War Against Others. "The Tyrant’s Novel" by Tom Keneally. [review]
The book opens with 'The Visitor’s Preface.' The person in question is a writer who is given permission to enter a detention centre on the outskirts of Sydney where he meets an asylum seeker called Alan Sheriff. But first, the visitor provides some context: 'a particular government might find it suitable to have an enemy-in-the-midst, more imagined than real.' One has, although at this point one can also imagine some readers refusing Keneally's premise. The centre is surrounded by 'razor wire to a height which Afghanistan's, Iraq's, Iran's, Bangladesh's champion pole vaulters could not possibly clear.' While its name is not given, Sheriff comes from one of those countries. The visitor observes that Sheriff is 'the name of a man you'd meet on the street.' Then the point is made more explicit: 'if we all had good Anglo-Saxon names … If we had Mac instead of Bin.' Another polemical premise is now offered, with the simple and radical intention to ask us humanely and without prejudice to reconceive how we think of the detained outcasts, whatever they are labelled. At that point, Sheriff, under his Anglicised name, is ready to speak. This is his introduction: 'my story is the saddest and silliest you would ever hear.'