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Salvador Paperback – April 26, 1994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 26, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679751831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679751830
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Didion's 1983 volume captured "the terror and unpredictability permeating the El Salvadorean scene," said LJ's reviewer (LJ 3/1/83). Though political events in El Salvador are no longer in the public eye, this serves as a chronicle of a dark chapter in that country's tumultuous history.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"No one has interpreted the place better.... Salvador shines with enlightening observation, and its language is lean and precise, in short what we have come to expect from Ms. Didion." —The New York Times Book Review"[Didion has] the instincts of an exceptional reporter and the focus of a historian [as well as] a novelist's appreciation for the surreal. . . . Her clarity of style illuminates the vast darkness that engulfs El Salvador." —Los Angeles Times Book Review"Everything [Didion] writes grows out of close observation of the social landscape of El Salvador. And it is quite impossible to deny the artistic brilliance of her reportage. She brings the country to life so that it ends up invading our flesh."—The New York Times

More About the Author

Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and seven previous books of nonfiction. Joan Didion's Where I Was From, Political Fictions, The Last Thing He Wanted, After Henry, Miami, Democracy, Salvador, A Book of Common Prayer, and Run River are available in Vintage paperback.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Joan Didion's portrait of El Salvador left me with vivid and haunting imagery of daily, commonplace disappearances and murders; of body dumps; of the Metropolitan Cathedral that the late Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero refused to finish, "on the premise that the work of the Church took precedence over its display;" of the ghostlike, dispelled National University ("It's not possible to speak of intellectual life in El Salvador"); of the United States' duplicitous role.
"Any situation can turn to terror. The most ordinary errand can go bad ... There is an endemic apprehension of danger in the apparently benign." Joan Didion makes it possible to imagine living this way, every day, with no escape, surrounded by brutal evidence of violent torture and death everywhere.
By the end of Ms. Didion's narrative, it becomes evident, if the reader did not already have some inkling at the beginning, that "American policy, by accepting the invention of 'communism,' as defined by the right in El Salvador, as a daemonic element to be opposed at even the most draconic cost, had in fact achieved the reverse." "To the right, anyone in the opposition was a communist ... where 'left' may mean, in the beginning, only a resistance to seeing one's family killed or disappeared ... In other words 'anti-communism' was seen, correctly, as the bait the United States would always take."
Reading Ms. Didion's firsthand report of the two weeks she lived in El Salvador in 1982 has made me hungry for more details. Her account is no ranting, "liberal" narrative, despite discussing a highly politically charged topic. It seemed truly a dispassionate observation of a country's life and culture laid to waste--our tax dollars at work. Truly cause for reflection on our government's--and our personal--role and effect on the lives of people with whom we share this earth.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By C. I. McCabe on October 13, 1997
Format: Paperback
For anyone interested in the 12-year bloody civil war in El Salvador and the U.S. complicity in that war, this is a absolute read. It is a slim volume in which Didion lays bare in a matter a pages the U.S.'s criminal involvement in El Salvador's internal political affairs in the name of the war against "communism." There are few books in its class. I couldn't put this book down and finished it in one sitting! It provides a quick study of the U.S.'s complicity in the murderous regimes in El Salvador in the 1980's.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Didion's uncanny ability to use the words and mechanics of the English language to convey particular meanings is lustfully breathtaking. A fine line between the writings found inside a diary and a journalist's objective reportings, Joan Didion's _Salvador_ conveys El Salvador's civil war in ways that only she could. An outsider to the region, Didion's writings do not attempt to account for the chronological history of the civil war. Instead, she uses this diaretic format to help the reader enter into a world so foreign from the luxury-plagued U.S. that both Joan and her readers are left out of place, struggling to come to terms with the terror then reigning across El Salvador's tropical countryside--all along forcing her readers to confront the odious role played by our nation's then Vietnam Syndrome inflicted CIA. (May I also suggest the movie _Salvador_,...It is based on the diary of another freelance journalist/photographer who covered the civil war in El Salvador at the same time as Didion. These two works will move your mind and your heart, altering the way you look at the world as well as our country.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stretchkev on January 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
Salvador is Didion's account her 2-week trip to El Salvador in 1982, then a country in the early stages of a 12 year brutal civil war. Her opening report describes some of the carnage and the everyday terror Salvadorans experience. The opening report is a vividly disturbing picture of just how cruel we can be to one another. From there Didion describes her encounters with various powerful citizens and American embassy officials, who relate the corruption and the utter confusion that permeates this civil war from the top to the bottom. From these interviews it is fairly plan to see that the Salvadorans and those in charge have become desensitized to the violence and disappearances, and are largely apathetic to any reforms proposed by the government. Yet the terror is still very much with them without abatement. Reconciliation is clearly not on the table and the average citizen has no hope that this war is ending soon. Also, discussed to some extent is the ineffectiveness of the U.S. Foreign policy in the murkiness of the civil war. A war in which our allies are more content with the continuation of this war in order to consolidate power rather than fight over ideological outcome or for a greater purpose. In the wake of needless bloodshed on such a massive scale, all an ambassador can do is work towards small victories like trials before executions and doing everything possible to insure the safety of the citizens in their charge.

Salvador is not a factual history of the war in 1982. It is, however, the war seen through the eyes of a journalist with limited time and resources in country. Bias is inherit in this kind of journalism and time and events told second hand become as fluid as the eye witness accounts.
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