An Afghanistan Picture Show, or, how I Saved the World

An Afghanistan Picture Show, or, how I Saved the World

by Vollmann

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
There are no pictures in this picture show but, in the spirit of photography, there are glimpses of a world frozen in time. The prolific young author of five other books is at his most precocious here, recounting his travels in 1982 in Pakistan and Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Vollman brings to the tangled politics of the Middle East his own very American brand of idealism: ``If you had a message for the Americans, what would it be?'' he constantly asks. Yet his courting of exiled generals, rebels and politicos--all in an effort to cross the border into the hills of Afghanistan--is informative. We learn of the great boredom that reigns in the refugee camps, and we see the abject poverty in the streets of Peshawar. What the work lacks is a coherent analysis of local and global politics being fought out. Instead, the reaction is all heart, guts and anti-Soviet sentiment. Though Vollmann who appears almost exclusively in the third person as `the Young Man' is gently self-mocking and skeptical about American interests in the region, his report adds little to the standard State Department view that Soviet intervention was cruel and unsupported by the people. The book would have had more impact a few years ago, when Afghanistan was caught up in the Cold War. Still, readers following the current realignments in Kabul will recognize some of the rebels who figure in Vollmann's account. There is also a detailed chronology. (July)
Library Journal
In 1982, 23-year-old Vollmann ( You Bright and Risen Angels , LJ 5/15/87; Seven Dreams , Vol. 1: The Ice Shirt, LJ 10/1/90) took his camera and tape recorder and headed off to help the Afghanis in their war against Soviet invaders. A decade later we have this account of his experiences, which describes in detail how ill-informed he was about Afghani life, conditions in the refugee camps, and his poor physical condition once he was finally able to get into Afghanistan. Alas, this is the wrong book written at the wrong time. How much more interesting it would have been to have Afghani impressions of this native young American whom they had to tolerate since he just might get them some American aid but whom most suspected of being a CIA agent. With the situation in Afghanistan rapidly heading toward resolution and with Vollmann offering few insights into personal development or discovery during times of great emotional and physical stress, libraries may safely skip this.-- Donald Clay Johnson, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.29(h) x 1.07(d)

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