Magazine article The Spectator

Anne Applebaum

Magazine article The Spectator

Anne Applebaum

Article excerpt

I must have war and death on the brain, at the moment, because after choosing my four best books of the year I realised they all concerned one or the other. My top pick - and a book which was well on its way to becoming a cult best-seller even before 11 September - is, of course, Ahmed Rashid's Taliban (Pan, L7.99), the best account, indeed virtually the only account, of how we got to where we are in Afghanistan. Rashid is a Pakistani journalist who writes as an objective insider, and one way or another he manages to make absolutely everyone - from General Zia to Mohammed Omar to the Saudis - look very bad indeed.

Another writer with precisely the same talent is Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist whose book about Chechnya A Dirty War (Harvill, L12) - is really a collection of narrated stories, rather than a straight history. She conveys the weirdness of Chechnya (this is a war in which the Russians are covertly selling weapons to their supposed enemies, after all) better than anyone else. …

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