Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paul Theroux

I've been a fan of his travel books for years, and highly recommend all of them, especially 'O-zone', one of his works of fiction.....

Well, as part of my duties as self-appointed Librarian, here at Project Hope, I was sorting through all the books, leaflets, pamphlets and flyers, when I came across one of his books I hadn't read. It's called 'The Pillars of Hercules' and is his account of his tour around the shores of the Mediteranean. As ever, an amusing and interesting anecdotal account of life in every-day towns and cities, credible because of the lack of hyperbole. I was interested to read what he had to say about arriving in Israel, and thought I'd share it with you. He started his journey in Gibraltar, and travelled clockwise, so here he is in Haifa, having crossed from Jordan, p460:

'Intending to be early, in order to catch the Sea Harmony, I went directly from the station to the pier. In the event, I very nearly missed it.
"Come with me" an Israeli security officer said to me as he leafed through my passport.
I was then subjected to the most intense and prolonged interrogation and suitcase search it has been my experience to receive in thirty-four years of travelling. This time I was not rescued by a helpful bookworm who knew my name. Instead, I was made to wait. And then I was questioned. Why had I gone to Turkey? Who did I know there? Who did I visit there? Where had I stayed? These specifics were noted. The same questions were asked of my time in Syria and Jordan. Then I was taken to a side room. My suitcase was gone through a third time, by a new official. He pointed to a plastic chair.
"Sit down."
"If you say please."
"Sit down!"
"I find this very unpleasant," I said after two hours in the chair, when the man returned with my passport.
Another man began trawling through my little bag. I stood up to stretch.
"Sit down!"
I was then summoned to receive my passport. I said, "What do you think?"
"I don't sink nossing."
"Know what I think?" I said. "I don't like being treated like this."
"No one likes," he said sourly. He hated me for my impertinence. He hated his job. He hated the Palestinians. He hated his life in a country where everyone is a possible terrorist and where life in this state of siege is a turbulent and terrifying nuisance.
The disgust and pessimism is so palpable that after a dose of it, the Sea Harmony ship-load of shouting, boasting Greeks, swaggering on deck and plucking at their private parts and smoking and guzzling ouzo and snarling at each other, was peaceful by comparison.'

The book was written in 1995. It sounds from my colleagues as if things have not got any better at the borders, and a constant topic of conversation here is what will happen to us on departure. I heard recently that you can be put in jail at the Airport for up to three years, without charges, if they consider you a security threat. I'll tell them I have to get home for my Xmas nut-roast, that should do the trick.

PS Leafing through the jacket of the book, I see that 'O-zone' is not available in the USA. Read it and find out why!

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