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The Path to Paradise: A Work of non-fiction?

maht91's picture

 Oxford Dictionary defines non-fiction as "prose writing that is based on facts, real events and real people." After I finished reading The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers by Anat Berko, I thought about the extend to which this book is a form of non-fictional writing. Berko does interview Palestinian suicide bombers in prisons. She meets with real people and presents to the reader what the suicide bombers said and felt on their way to committing these suicides bombings. She does overgeneralize and make assumptions on some of the things that she thinks. The book is a reflection and a personal narrative of what Berko captured from the testimonies of the suicide bombers. Even though the interviewees were not forced to speak, but I noticed that the interviews with the women suicide bombers were more open and thorough compared to the interviews with the men suicide bombers. I also felt that the men were maybe more reluctant to share their emotions and feelings with Berko compared to the women perhaps because Berko is a female interviewer. Translation of the interviews also limits the overall picture of the feelings and emotions of the suicide bombers. Berko's goal was to shed some light on the minds of suicide bombers. However, I think that there are limitations to the extent to which Berko arrived at her answer. First, as I mentioned above, is the translation issue and how some things might have been lost in translation. Second, Berko chose some prisons and some suicide bombers to interview and I am not sure how representative is the sample of people is to the "mind of the suicide bomber." Third, the interviews with women and men were different and I think this is due to the fact that Berko is a female interviewing male suicide bombers and I am not sure how much information, truthful and complete information, did the the suicide bombers give to Berko. A last point about the truthfulness of the book is that an Israeli, Jewish woman interviewed Palestinian suicide bombers. That right there is not an easy confrontation or a normal meeting because clearly Berko has certain emotions, feelings and ideas about Palestinian suicide bombers as she kept repeating "...killing children, civilians..." and the Palestinians have a certain stand when it comes to speaking with Israelis. I just think that, yes there were real people discussing real events, but I am not sure how truthful the communication is between the two parties. This just leaves me wondering if this is a work of non-fiction. This is the same question that could be asked for the documentary The Thin Blue Line by Errol Morris, the documentary reveals factual information but the testimonies of the witnesses might not have been truthful which can manipulate the "real" aspect of documentaries. 



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