Lost Between the Edges
Cambridge (Massachusetts) & London: Semiotext(e), 2007
Paperback, 240 pages, 30 illustrations. $14.95/£11.95. ISBN 10-58435-042-3
Reviewed by Gerardo Del Guercio
Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf (Montréal)
Eldon Garnet’s Lost Between the Edges questions the issues concerning discrimination. X, Garnet’s protagonist and his faction, the Anti-Racist Action group, are on a mission to eliminate Holocaust denier Ernest Zundel who became known for his publication Did Six Million Really Die? Zundel advocates that the Holocaust never happened and that the evidence that supports that it did happen is flawed. Most of the book’s chapters are separated by evidentiary documents from Zundel’s findings as well as other documentation that deals with the Holocaust. The novel’s format has the reader shift from fiction to evidentiary text. Doing so has the reader debate the meaning of truth. Both creative and informative, Garnet’s book gives readers of Canadian literature an insightful story that critiques the distinctions between fact and propaganda.
X is a PhD student in the Philosophy department at the University of Toronto. His goal of ending Anti-Semitism is clearly stated early in the book when the narrator describes X’s room:
Beside his bed, these collapsed piles clues of his current thought, particularly the books closest to the bed’s head: the most recent of his readings: A History of Anarchism. Twenty-four years old: of course he is a romantic. Reading an anthology about anarchism, an historical overview with chapters on all the famous anarchists: Kropotkin, Tolstoy, Goldman: the book open to the chapter on Bakunin: the scientific anarchist, the man of action, impetuous, impassioned: Bakunin: fervour in action .
Garnet’s use of multiple colons amplifies and restates what came just before the punctuation and controls the tempo too. The “collapsed piles” of books next to X’s bed demonstrates his devotion to end anarchism. I would like to add that I believe that X’s name may be a sign that he would like to keep his identity a secret. By never revealing his protagonist’s real name, Garnet may perhaps be showing how dangerous it is to speak out against groups that promote lawlessness. The letter X is also what illiterate people use to sign their name. I argue that X’s name is a sign of how he wants to go against theories that he considers oppressive much like keeping certain groups from being properly educated is a form of oppression. X’s name therefore is a sign of power instead of one that implies inferiority. I have given only a few possible interpretations as to what X’s name may mean in Garnet’s novel.
The Anti-Racist Action group is composed of X, Mark, Terra, David, and its unofficial leader, Ari. The group’s task is simple: to eliminate Zundel. X’s group plans to enter Zundel’s Bunker by posing as CBC reporters who want to feature Zundel in a documentary on free speech. What they truly hope to accomplish is to get “access to his computer and his accumulated files of hate”  and learn more about his plans and how he intends to use such files to rewrite history.
The Anti-Racist Action group had no difficulty convincing Zundel of their CBC qualifications. Zundel is facing charges before the Supreme Court of Canada that allege that he is guilty of spreading hateful literature. Zundel’s contention is that his publications are simply an expression of freedom of speech and that “[w]ithout freedom of enquiry and freedom of access to information we cannot have freedom of thought, and without freedom of thought, we cannot be a free people” . In an article from The Zundelsite, Fred Leuchter denies the existence of gas chambers and crematories that historians have said were used by Nazi Germans to execute Jews. Leuchter‘s report states that “none of the facilities examined at Auschwitz, Birkenau, or Lublin could have supported”  execution by fatal gas. The article also questions the existence of crematories given that the Third Reich would have had to have existed for at least thirty five years to cremate six million Jews. Websites like Zundel’s support such research findings that argue that the Holocaust never happened.
After the interview session at Zundel’s Bunker, the Anti-Racist Action group starts its plan to burn down the site. It is X who is placed in charge of setting the fire. To remain unrecognisable, X disguises himself in cowboy attire. He starts pouring gas on the fence “splashing the front door as high as he can reach: pouring the bulk on the ground: leaving about a quarter in the plastic container which he places at the center of the gasoline puddle” . After igniting the fire, X starts to flee the scene. As he is running he feels burning on the back of his neck from a piece of fire that caught him. X manages to put the burning out, but requires medical attention to cure the wound.
The Anti-Racist Action group then decides to meet at the Diplomatico Cafe. While they are at the Diplomatico Cafe they encounter two of Zundel’s bodyguards who approach them angrily stating that they know it was they who set fire to the Bunker. The two groups agree to meet at Christie Pits for a no-holds-barred fight. The police end the fighting and arrest several participants including X. Once X is freed from prison he takes a walk down Toronto’s streets and decides to lie down on a public bench. As he is getting up from his rest he sees Hans, one of Zundel’s bodyguards, standing over him. Hans begins kicking and punching X in the face, stomach and mouth. Spread out on the floor, groaning in pain, X tastes his own blood as a bead of blood-filled sweat rolls into his mouth. Garnet’s final scene reveals that battles for supremacy often end in brutal violence and that there is no true winner because of this violence.
Eldon Garnet’s Lost Between the Edges is an important addition to Canadian literature because of its relevance to the contemporary world. The novel describes how discrimination is still a major problem not only in Canada, but throughout the entire world. The ‘hate literature’ that Ernest Zundel spreads is material that is meant to influence the public to accept that certain people must be treated differently. Such material must cease being distributed because it condones that people must be judged by their ethnic background and race. I suggest that both academic and casual readers add Garnet’s novel to their library. I am sure readers will read Garnet’s novel more than once and that it will be discussed in academic circles across Canada. Garnet’s stance against discrimination is one that everyone should apply to every form of prejudice.
Cercles © 2010