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The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War Paperback – Bargain Price, May 25, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
But the book revolves around the aftermath of the second Chechen War, a decade later, when Seierstad combines the narratives of illicit trips (disguised and traveling under a false Chechen identity) and official 'group tours' organized for foreign journalists. It's the contrast between the two experiences that make up the principal drama of this book. On the one hand, she recounts the harrowing experiences of a mother who loses three of her four sons in various ways -- and whose fourth son returns after horrible torture. Set against the suffering, the absurdity of the current Chechen regime -- widely seen as a puppet government -- stands in even more striking contrast. In a park, police intervene when she is speaking to a local man. "We just have to make sure that people don't say the wrong things to you," the police chief tells her, earnestly. "Things that aren't true. We have to make sure that people tell the truth."
The truth that emerges from these pages is that a conflict of this ferocity leaves few heroes or heroines in its wake. One candidate is the title character, Hadijat, who earns her nickname for taking in scores of orphaned, abused and abandoned children. The children themselves are tragic figures, struggling to build lives of some kind after being traumatized.Read more ›
In her detailed narrative - which manages to be a surprisingly quick read, - Seierstad outlines the war's historic context, dedicates a chapter to the oft-forgotten deportation of Chechens into Kazakhstan, spends time on the plight of Russia's military, and interviews people in positions both high and low. She is an admirable reporter who, in keeping with the best of her profession, seems devoid of fear for her own safety. In addition, her eye for the human side of things makes the book a far more compelling story than most articles published about Chechnya these days.
That said, Seierstad is no superwoman: In the end, she falls victim to the same vices observed among most Western journalists covering emergency situations all throughout the non-Western world. Entire chapters are dedicated to a subtle ridicule of post-war Chechnya. People raised in the comfort and righteousness of the world's more "successful" countries (of the United States or Norway variety) seem to find themselves repeatedly incapable to understand that post-conflict societies cannot flip a switch and become law-abiding playgrounds of free thought.
Perhaps the details of Grozny's cumbersome bureaucracy and numerous (but laughably mission-less) administrative institutions are an attempt by Seierstad to return to the impersonal, fact-based journalistic style missing from the book's first section.Read more ›
Seierstad is no stranger to war zones. Her bestseller, The Bookseller of Kabul, recounts life in Afghanistan through intimate portraits of a middle class family, gained through her living incognito in that milieu. And her more recent A Hundred and One Days looked at life in Baghdad on the eve of the American invasion.
In this instance, Seierstad is on a quest to meet the Angel for whom this book is named - a Chechen woman who grew up an orphan in the Soviet system, a self-appointed caretaker for the orphaned children of Grozny (the second war, by UNICEF's account, created 25,000 orphans). But, more fundamentally, she feels called to Chechnya, which she visited frequently in the 1990s, during the first Russo- Chechen war:
The trips to Chechnya changed me. When I went back to Moscow to recuperate, I became depressed, had lost my drive. I just wanted to go back again. Real life was in the mountains, where people were waging a life-and-death struggle. Little by little I became almost anti-Russian, from being captivated by the poetry, the music, in search of `the Russian soul', I became aware of the racism, the nationalism, the corruption of senior government officials, the ignorance, the bleak history; as Anton Chekhov put it: `Russian life is like a thousand-pound stone, it grinds a Russian down till there's not even a wet patch left.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This review is from: The Angel of Grozny: Inside Chechnya (Kindle Edition)
An excellent look at the tragedy that is Chechnya, as the author moves through the country, meeting... Read more
My wife had this glued to her hands until it was finished! Apparently an insightful tale that will make you look at life in a different light.Published on June 19, 2014 by online4ever
The book was easy to read and was difficult to put down. I loved it but it was difficult to hear the stories. Read morePublished on April 29, 2014 by Cindy Craig
I stumbled across this book of a forgotten chapter of recent history by accident and could not put it down! Read morePublished on February 7, 2014 by Bob Graham
As always with whatever I order from Amazon, the book arrived very quickly. It was new and in excellent shape. Read morePublished on January 28, 2014 by Kathleen Adler
This writer doesn't hold anything back - She isn't interested in the palatable version of historical events, but personalizes and makes clear the impact of political acts on... Read morePublished on December 17, 2013 by Catherine W Munsee
Very interesting read. Was fascinated by the early chapters where Seierstad writes of how she entered a war zone and then how she subsequently snuck into the country undetected to... Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by Tony Ukena
Journalist Asne Seierstad always one for a challenge takes us inside Chechnya and talks to the residents of one of the Russian Federations most volatile republics that has been... Read morePublished on March 21, 2013 by Michael Griswold