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Who Killed Daniel Pearl? 1st Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0971865945
ISBN-10: 0971865949
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bernard-Henri Levy's Who Killed Daniel Pearl? offers a harrowing look at Pearl's life and tragic death wrought with a unique blending of journalism, novelist's imagination, and autobiography. Levy--an acclaimed French philosopher and bestselling author in Europe--in 2002 launched a one-year journey to understand Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl and the circumstances that led to his murder in Pakistan; the briskly paced result traces a thread from Pearl's killers through Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and, possibly, to Al-Quaida. In building his case, Levy takes none of the news stories on face value. At great personal risk, he follows the same steps that Pearl walked to the very farm house where the journalist was killed. He seems to question everything and provides bearing witness as the truth-telling reportage required in a nation like Pakistan that "has lost even the very idea of what a free press could be."

But Levy does not let his interrogative mind crush the emotional weight of his subject. He questions himself frequently, undermines his own assumptions, and continually returns to the man, Pearl: "a man who was ordinary and exemplary, normal and admirable." Ultimately, the book is a powerful work of compassion as much as a valuable bit of detective work. It is about a good man who died too soon as well as the terrible alliances that could perform such an act against him. Levy does not want Pearl's lessons to be lost to the world. He, like Pearl, seeks a "gentle Islam" that will resist the ring of blood and hate in what Levy calls "the beginning of the grand struggle of the century." --Patrick O’Kelley

From Publishers Weekly

Ostensibly an investigation into the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, this ends up being a much more ambitious account of the nefarious complicity of factions as varied as the Pakistan's ISI (the secret service), regional Islamist groups, a wealthy landowner, Pearl defendant Omar Sheikh and al-Qaida. It's a gripping read, as full of suspenseful twists as of bold and occasionally loose theories. At their root is Sheikh, the English-bred Pakistani radical who was convicted of masterminding the Pearl crime. But this conviction, in the author's fast-moving mind, is far from an open-and-shut case, and L‚vy follows up his preliminary conclusion that "the affair contained a heavy and terrible secret." What that secret is grows and changes, but in the final analysis it comes down to Sheikh being an operative of both the ISI and al-Qaida and then taking the fall for both at the trial. Pearl, Levy argues, was killed not for who he was, but because of what he had discovered. The conclusions, however, are in a sense less important than the ride that gets us there. The author's moments of gonzo journalism are thrilling, as when he penetrates a forbidden madrasa (seminary) by posing as "a special representative of the French president." The earlier passages of the book, which take some literary license in describing what Pearl must have felt, is alone worth the price of admission. This book is a controversial bestseller in France, where Levy has long been a leading philosopher and writer. Here, interest in Pearl and the larger issues makes this both fascinating and essential, even if you don't quite buy it all, and a credit to the investigative reporter whose work it seeks to honor.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 454 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; 1 edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0971865949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0971865945
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,779,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What Bernard Henri Levy does so well is to combine his interior monologue, his diaristic stream of consciousness, the appreciation of small details, little perceptions, with a larger journalistic expose, a "j'accuse" directed against the powers that be, and in the end, a very personal posthumous tribute to someone he never met--someone who BHL mythologizes, in fact, to give meaning to a life lost young.
It is indeed possible that Daniel Pearl was not investigating what BHL has exposed in this book, that Pearl really was just an unwitting victim carelessly caught in a trap, and killed for who we was, rather than what he was doing.
But by "imagining" Pearl's story BHL has found the perfect device for travelling layer by layer through the various worlds, the circles within circles that make up international terrorism--for the book is really a portrait of his killer, Sheik Omar, not Pearl at all.
It is in a sense a perfectly wrought book, an immediate literary classic, penned by a genuine French man of letters, a philosophical provocation and a journalistic coup. It is several books in one, operating at numerous levels of meaning, perhaps the best book of 2003, certainly among the most important.
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Format: Hardcover
For some time I was planning to review this book but did not know how to go about doing it. Well let me start on its literary merits. The only other book of similar intensity that I have read is Garcia-Marquez' "News of a Kidnapping". But I find this book more disconcerting and chilling because the author was always in the danger of meeting the same fate as Daniel Pearl. Being a Jew, a journalist, an Indophile and also someone with a history of opposing Pakistani military can be extremely dangerous when you are investigating Muslim fundamentalists in a shadowy state where an arm of the federal government is a benefactor of these fanatics.
In the absence of Danny Pearl, BHL had to rely on his imagination to reconstruct Pearl's last days. Since he couldn't meet Omar Sheik again he had to rely on third person information to fathom the evil depths of this fanatic. While the reconstruction of Pearl's last days has been done with sufficient pathos, I am not particularly fond of the way he tried to sort out the character of Omar. Instead of treating him like the sinister scoundrel, BHL sometimes, much to his own anguish, portrays Omar as a tormented evil genius, a man bound to his beliefs however misguided they might be, making him more like an anti-hero than a villainous monster.
On a political scale it indicts the Pakistani government that is being overrun by fundamentalists, as the more moderate people (and I am sure there are many of them) stand back as mute spectators. From its president, who himself is an enigma, to its secret service that is as dangerous as it is mysterious, one cannot say who is responsible for the current state of affairs.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't usually write reviews on here, but I'm very confused and surprised by another review that accuses this author of Pakistan-bashing and I have to come to his defense. Clearly, when Levy talks about Pakistan as a politically dangerous ally for the US, he is pointing toward verifiable evidence that officials in the Pakistani secret service have connections with Al Qaida and with nuclear arms trading. He isn't condemning the average hardworking Pakistani who wants to make a good life for his family . . . he is condemning the extreme Islamic fundamentalists who preach hatred not only of the West, but also of moderate, peace-loving Muslims.
BH Levy is one of today's most stimulating philosophers and it's shocking to me that he isn't more well known in this country. Europe has long recognized this great mind. Whether or not you agree with his conclusions about the Pearl murder, Levy's work must be taken seriously by policy makers and by anyone who actually cares about the future of our country. In this age of terrorsm, political alliances cannot be taken lightly.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the most unusual, moving and interesting book I've ever read. It seems to be part philosophy, part political discourse, and part -- a big part -- thriller. I truly couldn't put it down. This book details all kinds of stuff that's been essentially unanalyzed and certainly uncontextualized in the American press -- namely, the rising of militant jihadism, starting with Bosnia. Levy manages to not only contextualize it, but make it fascinating and exciting stuff. I'm also filled with admiration for the author, who, like Pearl, put his life on the line to tell the moving story of a brave reporter. Early reports on this book make mention of its speculative aspects -- but what's wrong with speculation? The evidence, acquired at great personal risk, is here, and Levy only does what the best investigators or cops should do: He tries to piece together its potential meaning. It amounts to a number of theories and hypotheses, and doesn't make claims to simplistic, yes or no answers. In short, it makes you think. A marvel, and, right now, a necessary one at that.
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