Shimon Adaf On:
The Last Osama by Lavie Tidhar
They say that no one perceives himself as a villain. They say that even angels of destruction are heroes in their own stories. They say that the days of characters who long to act evilly out of the abstruse love of darkness are long gone. They say that our epoch, as reflected in its creations, is enchanted by complete, deceptive portraits of monsters. They say that the danger lurking in this enchantment is a simplification of a different kind. They say that the various solutions offered for the analysis of the tortured souls, which have been banished into external social darkness, replicate in turn superficial patterns of thought. They say that literature implies a movement beyond simplification, challenging it, disrupting it.
All these claims carry significant weight. But how are they translated into literature?
In 2011, Lavie Tidhar published “Osama”, a novel depicting a world untarnished by global terror, a world in which the infamous terror attacks of the past twenty years never actually took place but were merely an event in a book of pulp fiction, whose hero is Osama Bin Laden, the avenger. Jo, a private detective, is hired to follow Mike Longshot and discover the true identity of the writer of the pulp fiction series. This depiction is one way of answering the question – creating a gap between the story that is told and its representation, suspending it, employing a wonderful dislocation.
There is another strategy at play in “The Last Osama”, which involves putting the attraction/repulsion dynamic to the test, and further exploring the gap between representation and the story. Tidhar presents a fast-paced, thrilling adventure that tells the story of involuntary identification with someone considered to be the sworn enemy of the 21st century. While at the same time, Tidhar examines the sources of his own enchantment within his biography, his creative life. The complex relationship between both levels of fictionality is expressed in vivid prose and takes on issues such as the relativity of violence in our time and thought control, in a highly original manner. All of which gives rise to one of the most sophisticated, powerful and expressive political stories I have recently encountered.