Friday, June 25, 2004

EurasiaNet Culture - Journalist Weaves Carnage and Carpets into Intricate Tale

EurasiaNet Culture - Journalist Weaves Carnage and Carpets into Intricate Tale: "With harrowing stories from carpet sellers and passages that intertwine the history of rug-making with the history of war, the author shows how humanitys capacity for art always contends with its knack for savagery.
This is an ambitious balance, though, and Kremmer sometimes misses it. The writing runs more crisply and the images register with greater force when Kremmer describes the devastation that pockmarks much of the region. For example, the revelation that '[a] seriously ill Dushanbe resident probably stood more chance of surviving by lying on the pavement outside the hospital than by going inside' casts a shadow that lingers long.
Kremmer�s acidic take on regional politics makes for brisk reporting. The book quotes Iraqi and Indian diplomatic officials, Afghan troublemakers, and Iranian students. It also presents such historic figures as Panjshiri military leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, Uzbekistani warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum and the late Afghan President Mohammed Najibullah with economy and wit. ('At that stage in my career I had not met many mass murderers, so a degree of trepidation was understandable. But Dr. Najibullah turned out to be a perfect gentleman.') We see an array of worshipful Saddam Hussein posters, including 'Jazzy Saddam in a white suit and Saint Saddam kissing the open pages of the Koran,' end with 'a silhouette of Saddam in a Bogart trenchcoat and holding a smoldering cigarette.' We hear an indignant diplomat in Kashmir declare that 'India is not a soft state!' Comic details like these make the book�s more harrowing passages stand out by way of contrast, but, also, easier to endure."

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