After having read What Is The What, Guillermo had done some research on Dave Eggers. Well, actually he had looked the man up on Wikipedia. Which nowadays qualifies as research.
“Which was kind of a shame,” Guillermo had thought to himself. As he remembered his bicycle trips to the library in times long gone.
Wikipedia had not stopped Dave Eggers from steeply rising in Guillermo’s appreciation though. Not only is the man a remarkable writer. He is a full-fledged entrepreneur, running his own publishing company among others.
What Guillermo admired even more, was that all that success did not stop Eggers from having his heart in the right place. Often turning his novels into a platform for those needing to vent injustice bestowed on them.
Just like What Is The What, Zeitoun recounts the story of people who are common on surface. But who have the strength to rise up to any occasion, and above. People one can cross in the streets on any given day. And who, at some point, become victim of unlawful action.
The backdrop of Zeitoun is however possibly even more impressive than the calamities of the African continent. A modern western city loosing all safety nets considered proper to our contemporary society in the wake of a hurricane. New Orleans during and following Katrina.
Eggers’ contained writing style initially results in an accurate, yet somewhat undercooled picture of life in New Orleans following Katrina. To Guillermo, it felt more like an account of real events than a novel. Which was not really a surprise as nothing in the book is fiction.
Yet, somewhere halfway through the book, Eggers manages to suddenly turn a somewhat sterile depiction into an outright thriller. From that point on, Guillermo had simply not been able to stop reading.
At first, because he needed to know what happened.
Then, once he had learned what happened, to know the final predicament of the main characters.
To finally become submerged in a gently musing retrospection, that put everything into perspective. In its last chapter, Zeitoun is indeed nothing short of meriting that illustrious hallmark of great American novel.
And Eggers has no need for fiction to achieve that. As if he understands that fiction is never more captivating than real life. Once the barriers of reason drop and man’s real nature shines through.
Zeitoun, in the end, is a majestic and timeless work. One of which reading can only be recommended.