Thursday, August 17, 2017

Anna Politkovskaya: 'A Small Corner of HELL: Dispatches from CHECHNYA' (2003)

Anna Politkovskaya, A Small Corner of HELL: Dispatches from CHECHNYA, translated by Alexander Burry and Tatiana Tulchinsky, with an introduction by Georgi Derluguian. (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Prerss, 2003).

I've carried this book around for more than a decade and finally took the plunge. I knew it was going to be grim, made grimmer by the fact that Anna Politkovskaya, the book's astute author who had borne persistent witness to the Chechnyan wars, was shot (four times) and killed in a Moscow elevator on Vladimir Putin's 54th birthday -- October 7, 2006.  

Because of Anna's work, and the work of others, the devastation wrought in Chechnya is known; as are its atrocities. In reading A Small Corner of Hell, in trying to promote it, I catch the glimpse of an understanding from Anna's words: "Our fate was to look for people who were similar to us in the world, who knew something about life that most people would never experience. Perhaps we would like to share this secret with them, but they didn't want to know and didn't care." (HELL, page 200).
The bottom line: A Small Corner of Hell looks at war mostly from the perspective of people trapped inside it, poor people, civilians, Chechnyans and Russians, ground down and pulverized in dire situations from which they cannot escape. 

This is journalism at its best, literature really, a mix of memoir, chronicle, dream and nightmare. Knowing now that the author of year 2003 will be gunned down in year 2006, too, adds another layer of immediacy and poignancy to each page. 

Putin treats journalists as "enemies of the people;" given this charge, it's not surprising that many have been killed inside Russia since he came to power in 2000. Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006) is one of more than thirty so eliminated. 

Hence also the chill from Donald Trump's adoration of Putin, and Trump's labeling of American journalists "the enemy of the people." See, for example, David Jackson, "Trump again calls media 'enemy of the people.'  USA Today, February 24, 2017. Link here.
Once you lose freedom of speech and the fair rule of law, you're in constant danger of death and destruction, without much recourse. 

Today's Rune: Harvest.  

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

gonna look for this. Sounds like a powerful work.