State of Siege

by Juan Goytisolo

This book starts as a conventional story of a siege, snipers and ruined buildings but then becomes something more complex including poems and dream sequences arranged in a lot of short chapters. There is very little direct speech and the 'story' is told by several different voices. Goytisolo packs a lot into a few pages and perhaps the best section concerns an imagined siege in Paris. You will think of Sarajevo, Rwanda and perhaps the Holocaust after reading this powerful book.


It was a woman's silhouette, dressed in a dark winter coat and her head covered with a kerchief. Impossible, at a distance, to determine her age: her slow pace could be attributed to old age, caution or simply fatigue. She was carrying a little oilcloth bag in her hand: her meagre store of supplies for the day. She had stopped to catch her breath before crossing the avenue and exposing herself to being shot by the men lying in wait in the blocks of houses on the other side of the river.
Translated by Helen Lane


Enemy at the Gates - the film

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