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Monday, 4 January 2010

Review: The Age of the Warrior, Robert Fisk (2009)

The author is The Independent's Middle East correspondent. This collection includes pieces published in that British newspaper spanning the period 2002 to 2008. Fisk fearlessly attacks Western media and politicians for deliberately misleading their constituents about the situation in that unstable region.

He is most scathing of comments made publicly by ex-president George W Bush and ex-prime minister Tony Blair, but others are also fair game. To hammer home the point, in regard to Arab scepticism about the Jewish Holocaust, he ends the collection with ruminations on Suite Francaise, the novel - published posthumously - by Irene Nemirovsky, who died at Auschwitz.

There is an occasional feel about his columns, which rarely are long. They are easy to read, entertaining - Fisk has given nicknames to his most hated opponents - and well-informed.

Fisk doesn't hide his biases. There is no attempt at 'balance' here.

Nevertheless, we feel as though we are in safe hands. Fisk is critical and educated, compassionate and knowing. There is a world-weary grumble in the undertones of his articles that amuses, as though Fisk were always intended to be a character in the writings. Indeed, often the author refers to 'Fisk' in his boyhood, and sometimes even dedicates an entire column to chronicling his own adventures, as when he tries to secure a new passport. The result is amusing.

Fisk lives in an apartment in Beirut, and has done so for decades. He covered the 1982 Israeli invasion personally and has covered the region faithfully since that time.

More important than his knowledge is the fact that it is easy to like Fisk. As in the case of the great Hunter Thompson, by wearing his heart on his sleeve, Fisk is able to demonstrate that there is nothing hidden up it.

The book is recommended reading for those interested in the Second Gulf War, terrorism, and the West's attitudes toward the Middle East. Fisk is aware that he is a small voice in a crowded square and, like any good representative, he stays on message. Fortunately for him - and us - his message is the right one.

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