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A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel Hardcover – September 28, 2010
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“A valuable account. Cambanis is one of those rare foreign correspondents more interested in the impact of the carnage on human beings than in military maneuvers or bang-bang.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Brilliant and revealing. It positively frightened me. Interviews in which you can touch the people, coupled with a scholar’s command of Islam’s history, allow Cambanis to explain what Islamic moderates and the rest of the world are up against. A serious story with emotional power.”
—Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations
“A revelation. Cambanis, one of the most talented foreign correspondents of his generation, has traveled far into the heart of Hezbollah, and what he has found there needs to be read about and studied by general readers and policy-makers alike. His reporting is not only fearless but sophisticated and penetrating, providing us with a vibrant image and unprecedented understanding of this powerful and secretive Islamist force.”
—Matthew McAllester, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Bittersweet: Lessons from my Mother's Kitchen and Blinded by the Sunlight: Surviving Abu Ghraib and Saddam's Iraq
“No global flashpoint today is more important than the Hezbollah-Israel conflict, and no book I know does a better job than A Privilege to Die in getting inside the thought-world of Hezbollah’s followers. Nuanced, textured, and brutally honest, the book should be required reading for anyone who cares about war and peace in the Middle East.”
—Noah Feldman, author of Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices and The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State
“A gripping, street-level view of Hezbollah. Cambanis brings Hezbollah out of the shadows to show how it has become the world’s most sophisticated resistance group.”
—Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent, NBC News, author of War Journal
“Illuminating and terrifying. Thanassis Cambanis journeyed to the heartland of the most important, least understood armed actor in the Middle East. The souls he met along the way are rendered with compassion but not spared the same unflinching lens that Cambanis turns on his own biases.”
—Quil Lawrence, National Public Radio, Kabul bureau chief, author of Invisible Nation: How the Kurds’ Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East
“Cambanis combines extraordinary reportage with sharp analysis and a clear voice to explore the many sides of Hezbollah. A series of highly evocative portraits of the people who make up the core supporters of Hezbollah makes A Privilege to Die a must read for anyone who seeks a better understanding of the region and its people.”
—Farnaz Fassihi, The Wall Street Journal, Author of Waiting for an Ordinary Day
"Thanassis Cambanis, himself shrewd, brave, and determined, has produced ``A Privilege to Die,'' which shows us a Hezbollah with a human face that is nonetheless a grave threat both to Israel and Western interests in the Middle East."--The Boston Globe
About the Author
Thanassis Cambanis is a journalist who has been writing about the Middle East for more than a decade. His first book, A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel, was published in 2010. He writes “The Internationalist” column for The Boston Globe and is a correspondent for The Atlantic. Thanassis regularly contributes to The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and other publications. He is a fellow at The Century Foundation in New York City. Thanassis lives in Beirut, Lebanon, with his wife, Anne Barnard, a reporter for The New York Times, and their two children.
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Cambanis certainly is a great reporter. He makes his interlocutors, the places he visits, the events he witnesses truly come alive. But when it comes to interpreting and analysing the facts he observes, he becomes vague, repetitive, contradictory. He makes lots of sweeping assertions on complex social issues - often plausible, but sometimes contradictory - but doesn't reveal their analytical underpinnings. Rather than coherent lines of reasoning, these analyse often resemble politicical speeches, plausible, eloquent, but essentially a very well-worded stream-of-consciousness. I think that the author would by hard-pressed to formulate the 3-5 principal arguments he wants to make about Hizbollah.
The accounts of the author's experiences would still be immensely enjoyable, if it weren't for the fact that these "analytical" forays often take the form of extended tangents interrupting the otherwise very readable reporting.
The worst part of all is the terrible editing. I have counted almost a dozen repetitions, sometimes of sentences, in one case of an entire paragraph (not literal but almost). Many of the "analytical" tangents should have been cut, streamlined and merged.
Contrary to other critical reviewers, I don't think Cambanis is biased or unobjective.
For a good history and analysis of Hizbollah, try Richard Augustus Norton.
This was written before the Syrian Civil War and the Party of God has sent volunteers to fight for Bashar in Syria. It is a strange fight in Syria-Sunni militants fighting the Baathists while the Shiite militants are fighting the Sunni militants. God must be shaking his head.
I thought the individual stories about the fight against Israel show how committed some are to the destruction of Israel. Hezbollah is not to be taken lightly. It can kill and destroy for the sake of its God, and with Nasrallah mouthing these words, killing and destruction are bound to happen. A solid analysis of the Party of God.