Collaborator of Bethlehem (Anglais) Relié – 1 février 2007
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Présentation de l'éditeur
“A beautifully written story. I have walked the streets of Bethlehem with Omar Yussef, smelled the dust and the fear, tasted his food, shared his anger and his hope. His decency is a light in the gloom. I shall not forget him.” —Anne Perry, author of Dark Assassin
“The Collaborator of Bethlehem is the best—and the rarest—sort of mystery: exciting and compelling, but it is also a deeply moving story that will, for many readers, shed much needed light on the conditions in the Palestinian territories. Matt Beynon Rees’s ability to blend the political and the emotional is reminiscent of Graham Greene.” —David Liss, author of The Ethical Assassin
“Omar Yussef has everything I admire in a detective: humility, humanity, a great faith in the power of knowledge and a few bad habits too!” —Barbara Nadel, author of The Ottoman Cage
For decades, Omar Yussef has been a teacher of history to the children of Bethlehem. When a favorite former pupil, George Saba, a member of the Palestinian Christian minority, is arrested for collaborating with the Israelis in the killing of a Palestinian guerrilla, Omar is sure he has been framed. If George is not cleared, he faces imminent execution.
Then the wife of the dead man, also one of Omar Yussef’s former pupils, is murdered, possibly raped. When he begins to suspect the head of the Bethlehem al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the true collaborator, Omar and his family are threatened. But as no one else is willing to stand up to the violent Martyrs Brigades men, who hold the real power in the town, it is up to him to investigate.
Biographie de l'auteur
of crime novels about a Palestinian sleuth from the West Bank town of
Bethlehem. As a journalist, Rees has covered the Middle East since 1996,
with the vast majority of that time spent amongst Palestinians and
Israelis. He was Time Magazine's Jerusalem bureau chief from June 2000
until January 2006, and previously was Middle East correspondent for The
Scotsman and Newsweek. He was born in Newport, Wales, in 1967 and studied
at Wadham College, Oxford University, and the University of Maryland. Rees
wrote award-winning stories about the violence of the Aqsa intifada for
Time. Matt Rees published a nonfiction account of the divisions within
Israeli and Palestinian societies called "Cain's Field: Faith, Fratricide,
and Fear in the Middle East" in 2004 with Free Press, an imprint of Simon &
Schuster. His first detective novel, "The Collaborator of Bethlehem", was
published in the U.S. in February 2007 by Soho Press and, as "The Bethlehem
Murders", by Atlantic Books in the UK. A series of novels about Palestinian
sleuth Omar Yussef has been sold to leading publishers in the UK, the US,
France, Italy, Poland, Spain, Germany, Israel, Portugal, Denmark, Holland,
Norway, and Brazil. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .
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The situation becomes more complex for Omar Yussef when another of his former students, Dima, the wife of the murdered man, is herself murdered. He begins to suspect the head of the local al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade is the true collaborator. No one else is willing to stand up to the Martyrs' Brigade who seem to hold the real power in town. Yussef is on his own to investigate and find the truth.
The plot is very carefully devised. It's a first novel by Matt Beynon Rees who based the story on actual occurrences he covered as a journalist during the second Intifada. The story is part war story, part political thriller and a murder mystery. Omar Yussef becomes a hero not through his actions, but by keeping an open mind about the situations happening around him. The background of the action is interesting too: the conflicts between Christians and Muslims in Palestine.
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The story begins with the betrayal of a Palestinian guerilla to an Israeli hit squad by an unseen Palestinian collaborator. At his funeral, his widow reveals a rather significant clue as to the identity of the titular collaborator to her former schoolteacher, Yussef. However, she soon turns up dead before her evidence can be reported to anyone. Meanwhile, another former student, a Christian who emigrated to Chile and recently returned, is accused of being the collaborator. Certain that his ex-student is innocent and being accused solely due to his religion, Yussef embarks on an amateur sleuthing quest to clear his name which puts him in direct conflict with the "Martyr's Brigade" militia which is the de facto power in town.
While on indefinite leave from his teaching position, the former alcoholic Yussef pokes and prods around Bethlehem and its Dehaisha refugee camp, piecing together little bits of information. The one major flaw in the plotting is that he makes a very major erroneous assumption about the clue the widow gives him, and anyone who's lived in the Arab world will spot it immediately. This wouldn't be that bad, except that Yussef spends a good portion of the book berating others for making assumptions... However, on the whole, he is an engaging character and the book does an excellent job of showing why those who wish peace and follow their conscience have a rough time of it in the Arab-Israeli conflict and how hysteria and mob rule generally carry the day. I'll definitely be reading the next in the series.
For me, the final solving of this mystery was not so interesting as the portrayal of daily life in a world where the rule of law has been subverted by armed insurgents and an embrace of martyrdom, all set against the presence of an occupying army with considerably superior fire power. Occasions to kill or be killed multiply in this environment, whether as the victim of revenge, dishonor, mob violence, suicide bombing, or cross-fire between combatants. Framing all this within the conventions of the detective story makes this novel something close to creative nonfiction. Meanwhile, as the sole voice of reason and decency crying in this wilderness, the detective Omar Yussef becomes someone you admire for his courage - though it may seem foolish at times. I hope Rees' book is the first of a series; I look forward to reading more.
Omar Yussef, a free-thinking Palestinian school teacher abhors all that has happened to his very oppressed people, but refuses to give up on hope for the future, and surprisingly, refuses to blame the Israelis for all Palestinian problems. Through his protagonist, the author also expounds convincingly on how the Israelis have condemned themselves to an unending conflict with their neighbors by continuously working to destabilize Palestinian community and family life which inevitably produces more violence directed against the Israelis themselves.
On top of everything else, "The Collaborator of Bethlehem" is a genuinely good police mystery that holds the reader's attention from page one. This is a very intelligent book, clearly demonstrating Rees' understanding of the Middle East and the complexities the Palestinian/Israeli relationship. You have to wonder whether it would be possible for an Arab or an Israeli to have written such an honest and insightful book. We should all be happy that this is published as the first in a series of mysteries. Bring on number two.
So we come to THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM by Matt Beynon Rees, the first in a projected series of novels featuring Omar Yussef, a grade school history teacher in Bethlehem. Yussef has taught Muslim and Christian children in Bethlehem for over two decades. A Muslim himself, Yussef has remained above the violence and strife, treating his charges without differentiation even as the Christian minority has slowly disappeared. Yussef's teaching style --- which encourages his students to turn away from the concepts of violent martyrdom and the gangster-style leadership of the self-styled revolutionaries who rule the streets of his city --- has not endeared him to the Palestinian authorities, who regard him as an anachronism at best and dangerous at worst.
Yussef immerses himself into new difficulties when George Saba, a Palestinian Christian and a beloved former student, is charged with collaborating with the Israelis in the execution of a Palestinian guerrilla. The accusation against Saba results in his arrest, with a mock trial and a brutal execution soon to follow. It is almost immediately evident that Saba is a scapegoat, but the Palestinians want vengeance and Saba is a warm body.
Yussef feels compelled to investigate, even as he is warned away from the matter by everyone from the local police chief to his own son. His de facto investigation puts himself and his family in terrible danger, but he is nonetheless compelled by his own innate sense of justice and decency to pursue it, even as it slowly becomes clear to him that even the truth will ultimately make no difference in a time and place where lawlessness and insanity rules.
As the result of his work as a Western journalist in Jerusalem, Matt Beynon Rees has a canny understanding of the chaotic street politics that rule the Palestinian territories. Rees brings a wondrous storytelling ability to this book, providing order to a complex and confusing tale and rendering it not only comprehensible but also compelling. He has created in Yussef a marvelous character, a flawed and damaged man constantly striving to do good and be better in a world where such efforts are both unappreciated and regarded as dangerous.
THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM is one of those rare debuts that hints at great potential and then not only delivers but also exceeds what is promised.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
I am someone who has lived and worked with both Christian and Muslim residents of Bethlehem in the period prior to the complete destruction of that society. I found the novel to be a real-life portrait of the city today as well as a wonderful piece of fiction. For the first time in a long while, I was unable to leave the book until I had finished the final pages.
Not only is this a gripping detective mystery but it is a stunning portrait of a city that once was a model of Christian-Muslim cooperation and is now a victim of the lawlessness of the Palestinian Authority. He has shown us that the Christians of Bethlehem, the few moderate Muslims remaining and the Israelis are all caught a web of corruption and destruction that now traps them all.