cover image What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles

What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles

Eliot Weinberger, . . New Directions, $13.95 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1638-8

American readers admire Weinberger (Words on Paper ; Karmic Traces ) as a literary essayist and for his indefatigable, influential translations from Spanish and Chinese. Many Europeans and Mexicans know him as a political writer, explaining U.S. events from a clear (and clearly appalled) left-wing perspective. Inspiring in its integrity, but grim in some of its conclusions, this brief volume collects 12 essays, a speech and an interview offered to overseas audiences between December 2000 and January 2005. (A preface dates from the first Gulf War.) Weinberger compiles a hymnal-sized chrestomathy of outrages, an elegantly acrid summary of all that he believes has gone badly wrong in the past five years, including "the first coup d'état in American history" (the Supreme Court's 2000 presidential decision) and the awful lessons of 9/11 (he lives in lower Manhattan). He argues that the Bush administration, rather than learning those lessons, has used them as excuses for large-scale carnage in Iraq. Weinberger has nothing like the American name recognition of thinkers whose critiques he echoes—he does, however, have a superb prose style: both far-left skeptics and worried moderates might appreciate his work once they find it, and New Directions' unusual pocket-sized format may help the collection get into those readers' hands. (Sept.)