From the streets of Sarajevo to the tsunami ravaged Pacific, the lives of two individuals explore the extreme edges of human experience.
Philo experiences war though the lens of his camera. It resides there, apart from him, separated by each fall of the shutter. Yet he cannot maintain this distance and finds he has developed an addiction to the very destruction he documents.
Katje is a teenage girl who lives in Sarajevo. Where he is the observer, she is the observed. While the West watches on TV and her world is torn apart, Katje responds by shutting herself off from her emotions, forcing those aspects of self which feel and love into the same recesses in which she has locked away her memories of better days.
Drawn together by a photo he takes of her at the end of the war, their lives after are defined by that moment. He becomes famous for his photographs, documenting combat for an eager public. She achieves fame as a fashion model, symbolic of all the triumph we wish to infuse into every tragedy as if by doing so we might lend the absurd meaning.
Thoroughly researched and written with an original voice in sharp, electrifying prose, Paradise for Beginners is a novel that speaks for our own “sad, frightened time.”