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August 26, 2012 1:05 am

Can a Novel Stop Iranian Nukes? Or Anything Else?

avatar by Noah Beck

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Cover of The Last Israelis.

By most measures, fiction writers are a fairly self-indulgent lot: they sit around mulling and forming ideas, converting concepts into stories, refining their drafts, and then hoping that someone — perhaps with enough prodding — takes notice. In most cases, when stacked up against physicians, firefighters, and home builders, it’s hard to see how scribes have earned their right to food and shelter on any given day. At best, they produce a few days or weeks of occasional entertainment for whomever happens to enjoy what they write. And yet, story-telling has been around since the dawn of time, so clearly fiction has the potential to serve an important purpose — to provide a call to action, a warning, or a source of courage or inspiration.

But can a novel change world history? It’s a fanciful idea, yet not outside the realm of possibility. As with free speech generally, the novels that have the greatest potential to alter world events are probably those that governments most vigorously try to censor and repress. For example, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” the 1928 novel by D. H. Lawrence that was internationally banned or censored for its sexually explicit content, may have been most responsible for overturning book censorship, even though — ironically enough — the novel had nothing to do with censorship and was never written with the intent to subvert it (unlike, say, Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451).

Some writers who set out to change the course of human events with their stories actually succeed, as did Harriet Beacher Stowe. Her anti-slavery novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was published in 1852 and is credited with helping to foment the U.S. Civil War. Legend has it that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, he declared, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”

Nevertheless, writing a world-changing novel is an outlier so beyond any writer’s control that there is something preposterous about aspiring towards such an outcome. Thus, when I decided to stop the Ayatollahs’ march toward the Bomb with nothing but the imagination of an unknown author telling an Armageddon story about 35 men on an Israeli submarine, I knew the odds were slightly against me. And yet, with a trace of the irrepressible optimism that I apparently inherited from my father, I quixotically dropped everything else in my life — my job, my plans, my social life — in pursuit of an absurdly improbable objective. After all, the odds of writing a novel that stops Iran from getting nuclear weapons are infinitely better if one writes it than if one doesn’t. So I did. The book that resulted from that sleepless, ten-week effort is titled “The Last Israelis”.

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What struck me most about this writing experience — besides the absolutely exhausting, marathon-like nature of it — was how surreal the whole endeavor seemed at times. Creating a world out of one’s imagination inherently detaches the writer from reality to some extent, but that experience is somehow intensified when the imagined reality takes place mostly in the cramped hull of a submarine. My small apartment, which I had barely left during the few months that I was writing, began to resemble the submarine that I was writing about and which the main characters were also stuck in for months. There was also something bizarre about writing a doomsday novel that takes place in the very near future and is based entirely on the facts of today. The writer becomes one part omniscient spectator, one part passive participant in a gruesome end that is theoretically just around the corner.

Now that I am firmly back in reality, I’m relieved to see that there is still time to prevent the fanatical regime in Iran from acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons. I can only hope that my novel — by reaching the right decision-makers and/or changing the terms of the public debate — helps to inspire the policy changes needed to prevent the Iranian nuclear threat from materializing. Even if six rounds of UN Security Council  sanctions could not stop Tehran’s atomic warpath, surely my submarine thriller can!

For more information about Noah Beck and his novel, visit www.TheLastIsraelis.com.

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  • Alex, try to adopt a slightly more respectful tone because you come off as obnoxiously dismissive and your atrocious spelling suggests that your hardly one to tell others to get their facts straight. It also appears that you didn’t actually understand most of what I wrote and are imputing to me all sorts of beliefs that I don’t actually have.

    Firstly, I’m well aware of Israel’s impressive offensive and defensive capabilities but how is that relevant to anything that I wrote above? Iran has made it very clear that it’s prepared to suffer a retaliation from Israel if that means that Israel is destroyed.

    Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an ex-president who is still influential, said this in a Dec. 14, 2001, speech, Rafsanjani said: “If one day the Islamic world [acquires nuclear weapons], then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality. Jews shall expect to be once again scattered and wandering around the globe the day when this appendix is extracted from the region and the Muslim world.”

    Your comment ignorantly makes it sound as if there’s nothing to worry about because Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons poses no threat to Israel.

  • Are you for real? My dear man, Isreal has according to some experts 200 nuclear weapons and a very advanced anti missle defence system.unlike you my dear fellow, many people especialy Isreali are mature enough not to take you seriously. Get your facts right or Zipp it..

    Alex

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