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September 09, 1988 - Image 81

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-09

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Wishing The Jewish Community

Daily 9:30-5:30, Thurs. tit 8


Can Fiction Help?

Continued from previous page

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Marvin & Claire Tamaroff



boost to Israel's own hard-
liners and set the stage for
still more conflict.
The plot is complicated by
two factors. One is the con-
flict between hardliners and
more moderate forces in the
Israeli defense community.
The hardliners, who take con-
trol of the operation, would
like nothing better than for
Abu Nidal to win control of
the PLO. This, they feel,
would stiffen Israeli resis-
tance to the idea of territorial
The other factor is the
Palestinian agent's rage and
grief over the Sabra and
Shatilla massacres in Leba-
non, events which Kaplan in-
tegrates into the plot with a
minimum of editorial com-
ment—but with a powerful
empathy for how the tragedy
must have affected the
In what follows, Kaplan of-
fers up an intriguing blend of
fact and fiction that makes it
hard to determine where one
leaves off, and the other
begins. The process of weav-
ing his plot around real
events and real people, he
says, required a degree of
authenticity that would drive
most novelists back to some
easier profession, like brain
"In my research, I covered
some 11 countries in Europe
and the Middle East, track-
ing down information on Abu
Nidal," Kaplan says. "I spent
a tremendous amount of time
doing research on seemingly
trivial details. For example, I
wanted to include Sartawi in
the book, so I had to learn
everything about him—from
what he believed, to the way
he chain smoked. 1- b get a
tenor of Abu Nidal, I actual-
ly spoke to his family in
Nablus—which was surpris-
ingly easy to do, until the
recent unrest."
The trick, he suggests, is
finding a balance between
authenticity and readability.
"I thought fiction would give
me the broadest possible au-
dience," he. says. "But I was
always aware that the use of
real people and real events
put a special burden on me to
be accurate. In this sense, it
was a difficult project."
The fact that he was deal-
ing with both real and fic-
tional characters also meant
that Kaplan lacked the sus-
pense writer's ace-in-the-
hole—the reader's curiosity
about how the plot turns out.
After all, Peres is still healthy,
and Abu Nidal is still at large.
Kaplan compensates for
this by emphasizing the in-
triguing interaction between
the Palestinian and the Israeli
agents. Both are weary from
the years of violence—but
both are conditioned by their

own pasts to regard coopera-
tion with the other side as a
form of treachery.
Although the concept of a
joint mission to silence Abu
Nidal seems far-fetched in
light of the recent chaos in
Israel's occupied territories,
Kaplan argues that there is a
precedent for Israel cooper-
ating with her enemies to
defeat even more dangerous
"It could work with the
Palestinians the way it
worked with Sadat," he says.
"Several times, Israel warned
Sadat of impending assassin-
ation attempts. Now, it may
be in the interests of Israel to
warn Palestinian moderates
when they may be in danger
—not because of any moral-
istic interests, but because
it's in Israel's interests to help
these people stay alive."
In his conversation, Kaplan
never strays far from his
vision of reconciliation in the
Middle East—or from his
calculated belief that a novel,
built on a foundation of fact,
can help readers share that


"I thought fiction
would give me the
broadest possible
audience. But I
was always aware
that the use of
real people and
real events put a
special burden on
me to be

But he agrees that the im-
pact of a novelist can cut both
ways. He points to the best- _J
selling novels of Leon Uris as c_
examples of now fiction can
exert a very negative sort of
effect on public opinion. In
fact, the two authors are
scheduled to debate later this
month; the topic will be the
portrayal of Arabs in the
latest Uris bestseller, The
"His public relations
material says that Uris con-
siders this book a classic
work on Arab culture,"
Kaplan says. "I find that it's
a painful, disruptive and
harmful book. Yet this is a
book with a wide impact;
every time I lecture, someone
comes up to me and asks—
with great enthusiasm—
whether I've read The Haj.
This book has answered all
their questions about how
awful Arabs are."
He suggests that Uris's fic-
tion is successful, in large
part, because it pushes all the
right buttons for Jewish

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