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Recently read: A Small Corner of Hell

[Originally published at the now defunct group blog explananda.com]

Posted on December 9, 2008
Tags: book_reviews

Anna Politkovskaya. A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya

This is one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. When she was assassinated in 2006, all I knew about Politkovskaya was that she was a journalist who covered the recent conflicts in Chechnya. Now that I’ve read A Small Corner of Hell, I can see why she was assassinated, and also why Putin couldn’t even bother to conceal his pleasure that she was no longer around to investigate his savage, inhuman little wars in Chechnya.

Politkovskaya has a keen sense of how the wretched conflicts Chechnya started, and how, once started, they became self-perpetuating with a host of cynical, exploitative generals, warlords, and politicians all profiting from it. In her book you get a decent analysis of how all these pieces fit together. But what you also get are closely rendered portraits of particular people caught in injustices so vicious they stagger the imagination. In the end, I think what makes her book so remarkable is this extraordinary range: from the larger structural view of the conflict right down to particular individuals caught in that nightmarish mess.