With one exception, these short stories were written for this collection, and they tentatively look at different themes such as compassion, passivity and their opposites, which are not, of course, original themes, as none exist. The stories are told in different keys, and some characters appear in more than one story. The subject matter also shifts from the social to the political, and the tone becomes increasingly pessimistic.
An Algerian immigrant worker in Italy invents a novel way to redistribute wealth, a female academic finds the path to success to be less difficult than she expected, a high-flyer in the financial markets perceives the glories of a selfish existence, a dying writer considers how he abandoned relationships to follow his art, a dead man rejects the tediousness of heaven, a thug is haunted by his selfish instincts, an essayist pronounces and an authors kills off his character. The plot in one short story distinguishes it from all the others: “A Dream of Justice” is the scenario for a one-state solution in Israel-Palestine, and examines how this might play out. This, it is suggested, is not just a “least worst” solution; it is also the only one in which people can go through the process of rediscovering their common humanity, albeit a process that is long and generational. The Middle East also appears in the form of guest workers and the “Secret War” in Oman.