The New York Review Abroad: Fifty Years of International Reportage

Robert L Silvers, Editor, Ian Buruma, Introduction by
Edited by Robert B. Silvers. New York Review Books, $30 (544p) ISBN 978-1-59017-631-3
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The 27 essays in this collection illustrate just how much misfortune can be packed into 50 years: reporters go where the conflicts are, and the portrait they paint of the world is bleak. The book moves freely from country to country, crisis to crisis, and only chronology dictates the transition from gravediggers on strike in Liverpool to the mental health system of India. But more than a quarter of the book was written after 9/11, and with the exception of the very last essay (on Haiti), the focus of that portion narrows abruptly to current events in the Middle East. These recent essays offer patterns that illuminate history. For example, the self-delusion of “springy, zesty, burning-eyed warriors” rebuilding Vietnam in 1967 echoes America’s sloppy rush to “install democracy” in Iraq 40-odd years later. These skilled essayists offer vivid descriptions that can sometimes be hard to stomach—but if we don’t see the cycles of history play out from one decade to the next, we may be doomed to repeat them. (Apr.)
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