Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Demonic Comedy

Some Detours in the Baghdad of Saddam Hussein, by Paul William Roberts.

Quickie Recap: Is there humour to be found in the situation in Iraq? Yes. Well, no, not really. Not really at all. But if there is, I'd trust Roberts to find it. He goes there before the war, during, and after, and finds a lot of things that he's not actually supposed to find. His "interpreters" and "guides" show him the glossy, wonderful world that he's supposed to be writing about but aching sadness is never far off.

Quickie Review: Roberts magically is able to write with perspective and humour that I suspect were not only a struggle to achieve, but also a bit of a defense mechanism for coping with what must have been some very difficult realities. There are bits that had me laughing out loud, and there are bits that had me reaching for the kleenex, and I think that ability to show the complexity without beating us over the head with it is the definition of this book's genius. I really enjoyed it, as much as anyone can "enjoy" reading about atrocities and the attempt to cover them up, deny them, or exploit them. Frustration and impotence are palpable undercurrents in this book and if you can find the stomach for them, then I suggest that this is one of the most tempered books on the subject available. Roberts finds equal scorn for all politicians and the only side he takes is that of the ordinary, suffering, every day Iraqi.

Quickie Recommendation: Yes. But you might want to arm yourself with a little guilty pleasure on the side. Don't say I didn't warn you. But yes, yes.

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