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The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan Paperback – August 6, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

9/11 Afghanistan has long been one of the least developed countries in the world. It was elevated to the forefront of the Cold War after the Soviet Union's invasion and the bloody war that ensued for the next decade. After the Soviet withdrawal, Afghanistan descended into a long period of chaos, destruction, and hopelessness engendered by the ongoing civil war. It was in this atmosphere that Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire turned terrorist, found a convenient base of operations. In this book, Anderson, a veteran foreign correspondent and a staff writer for The New Yorker who had previously covered the Afghan war against the Soviet Union, presents a riveting account of developments in Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. The author's reporting reflects an astute understanding of the constellation of sociopolitical forces in today's Afghanistan. Anderson's penetrating observations and his ability to bring life to his subject the fall of Kandahar and Kunduz, the dangerous search of the Tora Bora caves are admirable. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Anderson, who had reported on the mujahideen 's war against the Soviets in Afghanistan a decade earlier, was among the first Western journalists to get back into the country after the September 11, 2001, attack on the U.S. In this graphic account, which includes his diary entries, Anderson recounts the arduous task of developing sources and reporting on the complexities of a nation caught up in its own ethnic and religious conflicts and its place in the new war on terrorism. In one of the book's many ironies, as he travels with a convoy of journalists under the protection of a former Green Beret, he uses high-tech equipment to transmit copy chronicling the hardship of primitive living conditions. Anderson details the search for Osama bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora and considers, based on interviews with well-placed sources, the possible connections between the terrorist attack on the U.S and the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the head of the Northern Alliance, two days earlier. A compelling look at the war and politics of an international hot spot. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (August 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802140254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802140258
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By scott anderson on January 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure: While I do think Lion's Grave is a tremendous book, and provides a unique insight into the way journalists cover zones, I should also point out that I'm Jon Lee Anderson's younger brother. Rather than trying to pad his numbers, however, my main motive for writing is in amusement over Hilliard's comment that it seemed a bit Rambo-esque (i.e. unbelievable) that Jon Lee would give a tongue-lashing to a group of heavily-armed 20 year olds. After having traveled through five war zones with Jon Lee over the years, I can assure you that this is exactly the sort of thing he does do! Ill-advised, perhaps, but not hubris - and certainly not Ramboesque.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel Murray on May 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a very readable account of post-9/11 Afghanistan, and I finished it in the course of one day. I did notice, however, after reading this book and his current dispatches from Iraq, that the US itself is sort of an unseen factor in all of his work, implicit in the goings-on but not directly reported on. For example, during his time with the Northern Alliance, there is one description of a B-52 strafing a hillside and that is our one explicit clue that a massive campaign is occuring. Instead, we are graced with very intricate and impressive first-hand accounts of internal Afghani struggles, specifically concerning the assassination of Massoud. I think that Anderson's very noble intention is to prevent Afghanistan (and subsequently, Iraq) from becoming an abstract idea for Americans, by supplying readers here with details about life under siege. I would've enjoyed a bit more specific information about American operations and strategy, but I was not disappointed at all with what was provided in Anderson's account.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. Baker VINE VOICE on January 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I had already read most of the articles in this book prior to buying it and frankly I found this collection to be quite interesting. I've read few journalistic accounts of the events in Afghanistan post-September 11, 2002 that seem to capture the ugly warfare, back stabbing, and confusing alliances quite as well as this one. If you haven't read any of these articles in The New Yorker, it's very much worth reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I heard Jon Lee Anderson speaking of one of his adventures with an afghan warlord on NPR, and was instantly intrigued. His book, along with Thmoas Dworzak's photos offer an intimate look at the fractured afghan society, or lack thereof, that regular media outlets have not been able to afford us. You feel for some of the men he meets in his dangerous travels, yet these same men can disgust you. The various field reports are tired together with e-mail correspondence between Anderson and his editor. The sense of danger and urgency in these e-mails is at times astounding.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on December 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This was kind of a spooky book. The added e-mail notes at the start of each chapter gave you a real since of what it must have been like for the reporters in Afghanistan and their support staffs back in the real world. The book is basically the author's description of his four months in the country right after 9-11. The writing is so descriptive that it almost reads like a novel. The stuff he has to go through just to get the story out is something else. Also the level of danger for the reports, not even close to the front line, would make the average person question the line of work they chose.
The book was not a full description of what was going on in the whole country or the war effort, just the magazine article like description of his travels and reporting. To be fair, the book could have used a bit of this detail as an extra narrative to really make the reader understand what the author is going through in the context of the whole country. One other small point, the author details a few instances where he lets some Afghan soldiers have a piece of his mind with them holding loaded weapons. In a country that has not seen any rule of law for 25 years and has basically been the worlds largest OK Corral shoot up, it seamed a little too Rambo like for the unarmed author to be insulting 20 year old thugs with automatic weapons in the middle of no where. Overall the book was very entertaining and interesting. If you are interested in this part of the world then you could do worse.
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By A reader on September 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was really looking forward to reading this book to learn what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan in the months immediately after 9/11. But I ended up really not liking it, mostly because of the writing style.

The chapters alternate between the articles Jon Lee Anderson wrote for the New Yorker from Afghanistan and the emails he exchanged with his editor during that same period. I enjoyed the emails, which provided great insight into the challenges and difficulties, not to mention the dangers, that reporters faced in that part of the world during that period. My problem, though, was with the articles themselves. The writing, frankly, was boring. I'm sure it is considered extremely literary among those who are familiar with old school writing styles. It has that Graham Greene/Paul Theroux flair, where the writer sets himself up as an everyman passing through some distant land and records his experiences and observations in a travelogue-style that I'm sure was highly engaging in an era when contemporaneous forms of media didn't condition us to expect something livelier. But today, that style comes across as unnecessarily slow and oblique. While I ate up the emails, reading the articles themselves was more like wading through quicksand. I repeatedly found myself going back over a passage three or four times to try to understand where Anderson was (in his narrative), what he was trying to communicate, and how it related to the preceding passage.

The shame is that I'm convinced Anderson had much to relate and could have delivered a much more compelling narrative and offered much more insight into the Afghanistan of that period, if only he had used a different style of writing.
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The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan
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