By Gideon Polya
"The Chronicles of Nefaria" by William Cook (Expathos, Groningen, Netherlands, 2008) is more than a novel – it is simultaneously also a poem, a play and a liturgy. It is a very important morality tale about overcoming rage in our dreadful times.
The novel is mostly set in a hospital ward in the Holy Week of the Season of Forgiveness and Retribution in the State of Nefaria. An apparently comatose Patient is General Demas, the violent and racist quasi-dictator of the quasi-democratic ethnocracy Nefaria. General Demas has been struck down by a stroke. The Patient is unable to move or to see, touch or feel anything but, unknown to his visitors and carers, he can still hear and think. Throughout the book we read, in bold type, the secret thoughts of the Patient in response to his circumstances, his political, military and diplomatic visitors and his carers.
The Nefarian generals and politicians are quite blunt as they discuss the Patient among themselves or with the representative of Nefaria’s chief backer, Emperor Violentus of the United Corporate State. The Patient, drifting in and out of consciousness, can only silently rail against the disloyalty of his former subordinates.
In marked contrast are the Carers for the immobilized tyrant. Economics dictates that the carers are drawn from Nefaria’s downtrodden Subjects in the subjugated, Walled-off Prison Bantustan called Elusia. The principal Elusian Carer is Humilia whose humanity is such that she almost suspects that a spark exists in the apparently comatose Patient. Humilia’s country, people and family have been devastated by the merciless and tyrannical General Demas in his former life but Humilia rises above hatred to care assiduously and humanely for the helpless Patient.
Humilia’s views are heard as she talks to herself, to her fellow Carer Carita and to her brother Ismaal. Ismaal’s deep anger over the crippling of his father by General Demas’ goons has been translated into peaceful “bearing witness” – just as Humilia rises above her family’s distress in the impoverished Elusian town Joyoa and the City of Disparia and similarly avoids the corrosive temptation to hate.
It is this surmounting of anger that is at the moral core of the book. The Reader becomes part of this moral journey because the dreadful circumstances of the Occupied People of Elusia – all based upon dreadful, contemporary actuality in the Holy Land – do indeed engender helpless anger at the horrible inhumanity being applied day in and day out to millions of innocent people.
A key theme is that such moral outrage has to be usefully transmuted into useful thoughts and deeds – the development of moral solutions and “bearing witness”. The novel is constructed around the seven days of the Nefarian religious festival that successively involve Awareness, Humility, Contrition, Confession, Penance, Absolution and Retribution. I won’t spoil the novel by saying any more but I would urge everyone to take this moral journey.
If you haven’t realized this already, Demas is the Butcher of Beirut, General Sharon, Nefaria is Apartheid Israel and Elusia represents the 2 parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the walled-in West Bank Samarian and Judaean Concentration Camps and the Gaza Concentration Camp. The real-life story is a blot on the West that continues to back the now over 40 year violent and abusive imprisonment of the people of Occupied Palestinian Territories. Three quarters of these indefinitely and abusively imprisoned people are women and children.
William Cook comments in a postscript that other writers such as Shakespeare in drew inspiration from ancient kings and emperors to hold a mirror to humanity – and accordingly he asks why not use the barbarities inflicted by contemporary leaders? Cook comments “Have we not the very essence of allegorical evil resident in the Prime Minister of Nefaria and the Emperor of the United Corporate States? Let their respective shadows fall over the wastelands they have created in their arrogance that we may learn and dream again.”
The horrendous evil of the Bush Wars is partly exposed by the following appalling statistics for the Palestinian Genocide, the Iraqi Genocide and the Afghan Genocide being perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghan Territories: post-invasion violent and non-violent avoidable deaths (excess deaths) 0.3 million, 2 million and 4-6 million, respectively; post-invasion under-5 infant deaths 0.2 million, 0.6 million and 2.1 million, respectively; and refugees totalling 7 million, 6 million and 4 million, respectively
William Cook’s novel is a worthy successor to Samuel Butler’s classic morality tale “Erewhon” and is written in the finest moral traditions of the humane America that the World still loves and admires despite the horrors wrought by Emperor Violentus – the tradition underpinned by the Jeffersonian Declaration “all men are created equal and have an unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. William Cook describes his fine and compelling novel as a “Morality Tale” and adheres rigorously to the principle of “love thy neighbour” and the core injunctions from the World War II Jewish Holocaust, namely “zero tolerance for racism”, “never again to anyone” and “bear witness” – fundamental and sacred injunctions being grossly violated by the neocons, Bush-ites, racist Zionists (RZs) and Nefarian Apartheiders.
Wonderfully outspoken, expatriate Australian writer Dr Germaine Greer drew a storm in “politically correct racist” (PC racist), Bush-ite, White Australia recently when she published an extended book-form essay entitled “On Rage” that discussed deeply angry Indigenous Australian responses to their continuing appalling treatment (see: here ) – treatment that I have described as a continuing Aboriginal Genocide in which 9,000 Indigenous Australians die avoidably every year while Australia, the Land of Flies, Lies and Slies (spin-based untruths) simply looks the other way (see my essay “Climate Emergency, Exceptionalism & Ignoring Downunder. Letter to Eminent Australians over Public Honesty”). William Cook’s wonderful morality tale describes a process of overcoming rage and transmutation to humane, inspiring and useful action.
A related novel on the genocide of the Jews, Gypsies and Slaves and the colonial genocide of Indigenous People is Australian Alex Miller’s “Landscape of Farewell” from which comes a beautiful quotation from the German poet Goethe’s “Iphigenie auf Tauris” that can be well applied to wonderful, humanitarian Americans such as William Cook: “Die Götter brauchen manchen guten Mann/Zu ihrem Dienst auf dieser weiten Erde” (“the gods need many a good man at their service in this wide world”).
Peace can happen tomorrow in Nefaria-Elusia with strict non-racism, justice, equity and reconciliation. Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. Decent folk must be inspired by William Cook’s novel to “bear witness” and to act ethically (e.g. by Sanctions and Boycotts as were successfully applied against Apartheid South Africa) until “zero tolerance for racism” brings immediate peace and justice to the Holy Land.
– Dr Gideon Polya, MWC News Chief political editor, published some 130 works in a four decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003), and is currently writing a book on global mortality. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com.