Station master predicts future peace

LEFT-WING: Lavie Tidhar


AUTHOR Lavie Tidhar can envisage a time when Israelis and Palestinians live in peaceful times - but it is far, far, far into the future.

The science-fiction writer's latest book Central Station (Taychon Publishing) is set in Tel Aviv after a worldwide diaspora has left a quarter-of-a-million people at the foot of a space station.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. But his vast, extended family continues to pull him back home.

"We can assume that the Israelis and the Palestinians are part of a federated state," Lavie said of the book. "At some point, the Palestinians' right of return was activated and they co-exist with the Israelis.

"Jaffa is Arab, Tel Aviv is Jewish and the central station acts as a buffer zone between them.

"Funnily enough, before Central Station came out, I read a piece in an Israeli newspaper that a political organisation was trying to push for that solution.

"I guess it is life imitating fiction - or the other way round!"

London-based Lavie spent a year back in his native Israel from 2010.

And it was while walking past Tel Aviv's Central Station that he had the idea for the book.

The 39-year-old recalled: "As an area, I found it interesting. Much of it had been settled by African refugees on one side and Asian economic migrants on the other.

"It is the sort of place that Israelis do not like to go near.

"I thought about how the area could look in a far-future setting and to follow the lives of our great-great-great-great grandchildren."

The fact that the main character has a Chinese surname is no coincidence.

For Lavie and aid worker wife Elizabeth spent a number of years in the south-east country of Laos.

He explained: "We were invited to a Chanucah party. Most of the kids running round were half-Jewish, half-Laos, half-Jewish and half-Tibetan or half-Jewish and half-Thai.

"It is something you see more and more, I think."

Lavie was raised on Kibbutz Dalia in northern Israel, where his Romanian grandfather was one of the founders.

His mother, Chaia, is the daughter of Hungarian Holocaust survivors and was born in a refugee camp in Germany.

Lavie moved with his parents and brother to Johannesburg when he was 15 before returning to Israel.

He met Elizabeth in Malawi while travelling and moved to the UK to be with her in 1998.

Lavie recalled: "I wanted to be a writer when I was young, but I wanted a bit of a life before I started doing that, otherwise I would be one of those writers who didn't know about life."

Once in London he read computers at The American International University before switching to read literature.

He then worked for various internet companies before Elizabeth landed a job as an aid worker in the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu.

"It enabled me the opportunity to write full-time," Lavie explained.

"But there was no electricity in the village in which we lived and I had to go to the one solar power charging station with my laptop and could only write in short bursts."

The couple later spent a few years in Laos, where Lavie continued to write.

He went on to write numerous books, novellas and anthologies, mostly in the science-fiction genre.

Lavie's novel Osama won the 2012 World Fantasy Award for best novel - beating horror writer Stephen King and Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin.

His next novel, A Man Lies Dreaming, won the 2015 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize.

He also wrote a collection of four linked short stories, Hebrew Punk, which re-imagined pulp fantasy in Jewish terms.

Much of Lavie's inspiration for his past books came from his near misses with terrorists.

He explained: "Elizabeth and I were backpacking around Africa and were recovering from malaria when the terrorist attacks happened in Dar-es-Salaam.

"The al-Qaeda terrorists behind the Kenya bombings stayed at the same hotel as us in Nairobi and we were caught up in the 2004 Sinai bombings in Egypt.

"In a way, it felt like the terrorists were chasing me. It was an odd situation."

Earlier this year, Lavie teamed up with fellow author Shimon Adaf to discuss how to write the Israeli novel.

"We don't have any answers - it was just two Jews asking each other questions," he laughed.

Politically, Lavie describes himself as being "as left-wing as you can get".

He added: "I know that is not a particularly popular point of view in Israel these days.

"I always thought that I can make political points with my science-fiction writing, as I know some Soviet writers used to do.

"I talk to Israeli writers and I know how difficult it is for them so say anything because the discourse about the political situation there has been almost violent."

Central Station is likely to be released in Israel soon, with Lavie enthusing that the science-fiction scene there has become more mainstream.

"The book shops are pretty small, but there is a young and enthusiastic scene," he continued "People want escapism."

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