A Hundred and One Days: A Baghdad Journal

A Hundred and One Days: A Baghdad Journal

by Asne Seierstad

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For one hundred and one days Asne Seierstad worked as a reporter in Baghdad. Always in search of a story far less obvious than the American military invasion, Seierstad brings to life the world behind the headlines in this compelling- and heartbreaking-account of her time among the people of Iraq. From the moment she first arrived in Baghdad on a ten-day visa, she


For one hundred and one days Asne Seierstad worked as a reporter in Baghdad. Always in search of a story far less obvious than the American military invasion, Seierstad brings to life the world behind the headlines in this compelling- and heartbreaking-account of her time among the people of Iraq. From the moment she first arrived in Baghdad on a ten-day visa, she was determined to unearth the modern secrets of an ancient place and to find out how the Iraqi people really live. What do people miss most when their world changes overnight? What do they choose to say when they can suddenly say what they like? Seierstad reveals what life is like for everyday people under the constant threat of attack- first from the Iraqi government and later from American bombs. Displaying the novelist's eye and lyrical storytelling that have won her awards around the world, Seierstad here brings to life an unforgettable cast of characters, from foreign press apparatchik Uday, to Zahra, a mother of three, to Aliya, the guide and translator who becomes a friend. Putting their trust in a European woman with no obvious agenda, these and other Iraqis speak for themselves, to tell the stories we never see on the evening news.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The author of The Bookseller of Kabul, Norwegian journalist Seierstad spent 101 days in Baghdad before, during and after the initial coalition attacks in March 2003. She calls the articles she sent back to Europe glimpses from the war, and weaves them into a brisk, present-tense narrative. The initial battles are with her official minders, always eager to steer her to sanctioned sites. With child psychologists, she sneaks out to explore the muddled terror and fantasy in Iraqi kids. A Finnish human shield professes no opinion of Saddam. A missile that hit a market renders scenes of blood and torment too gruesome to publish. Every American soldier the author meets mentions 9/11, but there is no one Iraqi voice she finds men joyful and resentful as they watch the fall of Saddam's statue, and finally able to report atrocities they witnessed. One constant is Aliya, Seierstad's interpreter, a loyal regime supporter who heroically shows up during the attacks, works mechanically after liberation to translate regime opponents' words and finally comes to some understanding of her country's past. While more ambitious narratives may provide more context, this is a valuable impressionistic portrait; it may lack the concentrated intimacy of The Bookseller of Kabul, but should backlist well as part of the tapestry of Iraq coverage. Agent, Diane Spivey. 7-city author tour. (Apr. 11) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad was initially planning to spend ten days in Baghdad, having been given permission by the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003 to report briefly on Iraq's situation. She ended up staying 101 days, from January to April 2003, before, during, and after the allied invasion that ousted Saddam's repressive regime and replaced it with instability. Seierstad's even-handed reporting covers the fear of ordinary Iraqis under Saddam's thumb and the deaths of civilians during the war. "Before the war the problem was elementary: no one said anything," writes the journalist, eager to interview housewives, shopkeepers, and school children. All reporters were given drivers, minders, interpreters, and assigned areas of permitted travel. Still, Seierstad sent out stories with telling details of everyday life under sanctions. She captures the confusion at the beginning of the war, when foreign correspondents were hunkered down in Hotel Palestine--no water, no electricity, bomb blasts and explosions. "Screams rent the air. Blood runs into the sand on the street and pavements. Those who can, get up...Torn-off body parts are removed from the street. After a few hours only the blood in the sand remains." Although her editor ordered her home, Seierstad stayed on to witness the horrors of war. Some Iraqis welcomed the Americans; others hated them. Looting began; no one was in charge. "We are an invading force, not an occupying army. People ask for protection but we are not the police," says one American soldier. Seierstad's vivid prose includes dispatches sent to her newspaper as well as her memories of her experiences. She is a seasoned war correspondent and the author of TheBookseller of Kabul, an international bestseller. Her account is highly recommended. KLIATT Codes: SA*--Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Basic Books, 327p. map., $14.00.. Ages 15 to adult.
—Janet Julian
Kirkus Reviews
A riveting and wrenching account of a Norwegian journalist's experiences in Baghdad before, during and after the American invasion of Iraq. Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul, 2003) establishes a principle that dominates this powerful work: "The truth about the war in Iraq does not exist." Everyone lies. The Iraqi bureaucrats lie as the Americans prepare and launch their attacks; the Iraqi media broadcast and print stories that are patently false; the Americans lie about their objectives in the country. (The author reports many American soldiers saying the invasion is payback for 9/11.) Seierstad begins with her difficulties in Baghdad before the regime fell. She didn't speak the language; couldn't go anywhere without a "minder"; and repeatedly struggled to convince officials to let her remain. (Once, she was evicted but soon found her way back from Jordan.) But then she discovered a wonderful translator and guide, Aliya, who stayed with her until she left the country after the fall of Baghdad. When order disintegrated as the Americans approached, the author was able to get the stories she craved through interviews with ordinary Iraqis and visits to sites of damage and destruction-hospitals, marketplaces, schools-writing descriptions of what she saw that can require of the reader a steady eye and a calm stomach. Seierstad reproduces here, within the context of her narrative, a number of the actual stories she filed. Horrors were everywhere. American soldiers, she claims, targeted journalists and, unable to distinguish friend from foe, shot numerous civilians whose only offense was to fail to understand English. In Saddam City, later, she heard harrowing tales of families that had beendecimated by the dictator's brutality. Looters now ran wild while Americans guarded the Oil Ministry. Dispatches scorched by the flames of battle and delivered by Seierstad, to enormous effect, in tense, crisp language. Author tour

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Basic Books
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5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

British actress and narrator Josephine Bailey has won ten AudioFile Earphones Awards and a prestigious Audie Award, and Publishers Weekly named her Best Female Narrator in 2002.

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