The Parents Circle-Families Forum

Apeirogon: Parents Circle in Best-selling Novel of Bereaved Fathers

Apeirogon-Bassam and Rami

Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan, members of Parents Circle, at an event for Apeirogon. Photo: Parents Circle

In 2003, Rex presented the Bill Graham Award to the Parents Circle/Bereaved Families Forum, a group founded in Israel by Palestinian and Israeli parents who had lost children to the ongoing conflict and hoped to build peace.

It’s 2020, the conflict is very much still with us, bereaving still more parents. A new book, soon to be a movie from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, shines a light on the Parents Circle’s work.

Apeirogon, a best-selling novel by  British author Colum McCann, follows two fathers, Bassam (Palestinian) and Rami (Israeli), both of whom have lost daughters, as they make their way to a meeting of the Parents Circle. (The title of the book, with 1,001 individual chapters, comes from a mathematical term for an object with “an observably infinite number of sides.”)

The Guardian says of the book: “The number of chapters is a reference to the 1,001 Arabian Nights – ‘a ruse for life in the face of death.’ The novel pivots on a single day in 2016, when the two men travel to a meeting of the Parents Circle in a Cremisan monastery in Beit Jala. The bereaved parents are there to do what we do as we read the book: “to listen to the stories of Bassam and Rami, and to find within their stories another story, a song of songs … remembering, while listening, all of those stories that are yet to be told.

“You don’t read Apeirogon so much as feel it, as the particular tragedies of Bassam and Rami are lived out in an ever-present moment of loss. The deaths of Smadar and Abir are interlaced with a host of other tales that enter into a strange and powerful dialogue with the stories of these two girls who had barely begun to live yet.”