Socialist Worker

A Day and a Night and a Day - haunted by memories of torture

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2147

A Day and Night and a Day bookcover

A Day and Night and a Day bookcover

Glen Duncan’s new novel is a political thriller about extraordinary rendition and torture. It features Augustus Rose, a mixed race American who is a former student radical, disillusioned journalist, restaurant boss and a terrorist.

He is a part of a group that kills other terrorists and tried to kill George Bush. He uses memories to keep his mind away from torture he suffers at the hands of the US. It doesn’t work.

The book’s title, A Day and Night and a Day, describes how long Rose holds out before giving up names demanded by Harper, his cynical US interrogator.

The prevalence of familiar themes and clichéd plots is one of the subjects of the novel. At one point Harper claims, “Have you noticed what a lot of torture movies there are now? The movies are coming because we know what’s going on.

“We have knowledge we don’t want, so we send it to the movies. Hollywood’s the transformation chamber where unpleasant truths get turned into consumable fictions.”

Most, but not all, of the violence against Rose is kept off page. As Harper puts it, “We’re suffering representational saturation. You don’t need to describe or evoke – you just name it and put ‘the’ in front of it. It’s like compressed data files: The suburban nightmare. The dirty war. The mom who knew.”

The book ultimately argues that there are no ideas worth living or dying for. It is rather the “durable habits” of loving and caring for one another that get us through the barbarism.

Rose thinks at one point, “It astonished him that those around him went about their business as if the world – as if being alive – was uncomplicated and unmysterious.”

The book’s overlapping levels of literary style can sometimes jar with the hardboiled thriller direction. But this is a powerful, disturbing and thought-provoking novel.

A Day and a Night and a Day
by Glen Duncan
Simon & Schuster, £14.99

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Article information

Tue 14 Apr 2009, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2147
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