Vicious Circle: A Novel of Complicity

by Robert Littell

You can't be an enemy by yourself. Robert Littell's new book
illustrates the reciprocal nature of violence and revenge, taking
readers to Jerusalem, ground zero for payback since the state of
Israel was created. Taking place in the fictional not-too-distant
future, Israel and Palestine are on the brink of signing a historic
peace accord that will bring an end to decades of violence.

Unfortunately, there are fundamentalists on both sides who view any
compromise as defiance of God's will. One such man is Dr. al-Saath,
a Palestinian terrorist hardened in Israeli jails. He kidnaps Rabbi
Isaac Apfulbaum, well-known speaker for the Jewish cause in the
Middle East and not necessarily above violent means himself. The
plan is to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, but
both sides are keenly aware that an exchange is unlikely and the
Rabbi's death certainly will quash the peace process and lead to
further violence. Dr. al-Saath holds the Rabbi prisoner and
tortures him, hoping that he will confess to the secret identity of
Ya'ir, leader of an underground Jewish movement dedicated to the
destruction of the Palestinian state.

The Rabbi and the doctor are very similar --- so similar that the
reader will have to put a little extra effort into keeping track of
them. They are both nearly blind, for instance, clearly symbolic of
fundamentalism's failure to acknowledge its devastating effects.
They are also both considered to be messiah figures among their own
people, and each man realizes that they would not have been so
revered if they did not have a well-matched opponent to prove
himself against. Will either of them be able to break the circle
that has bound them together, years of culture and history ensuring
their enmity?

One of the highlights of VICIOUS CIRCLE is that it shares this
history with the reader; it's extremely informative without ever
preaching or taking sides. Drawing on the Torah as often as the
Qur'an, the histories of the two men, who could have been
inseparable friends in other times, illustrate the history of the
region, one tragedy always leading to another.

Reviewed by Colleen Quinn ( on January 24, 2011

Vicious Circle: A Novel of Complicity
by Robert Littell

  • Publication Date: October 10, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 1585678554
  • ISBN-13: 9781585678556