Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review - "I Wouldn’t Start From Here: A Misguided Tour of the Early 21st Century" by Andrew Mueller

“If any of us harboured doubts that the pre-war tales of Iraq’s fearsome weapons stockpile had been the most fabulous crock of nonsense, they were dispelled by poking around the offices. On one floor, each room was devoted to one of Iraq’s potential enemies. There was a Turkey room, a Saudi Arabia room, an Iran room, an Israel room. The walls of each were covered with maps of the corresponding country, red stickers indicating potential targets. Around these maps, rather touchingly, were pictures of fighter aircraft, cut out of the back issues of Jane’s Defence Weekly that littered the floors. The Iraqi defence establishment which, we’d been told, was plotting to lay us waste in forty-five minutes, had in fact been making collages. If I imagined the Iraqi officers making ‘Zoom! Kapow!’ noises as they stuck the pictures up, it was kind of heartbreaking. A wall was covered with a lovingly painted artwork of all the things the Iraqi air force hadn’t had: fighter plans, AWACS aircraft, satellites.”
(Taken from Chapter 10: Iraq, Baghdad, p 122)

It’s hard to stick a genre to Andrew Mueller’s I Wouldn’t Start From Here: A Misguided Tour of the Early 21st Century, though Picador (publisher) have typed it as Memoir/Travel. Wherever it fits, it’s a remarkable tome that is a must read for those interested in the affairs of our world for the past decade.

In the authors own words, I Wouldn’t Start From Here “is a random history of the twenty-first century so far as seen by one peripatetic hack” (p 3). An Australian journalist, though he doesn’t count himself as a ‘proper’ one, Andrew Mueller has experienced and reported on wars and conflicts across the globe. He has come into contact with oppressors and the oppressed, soldiers and civilians, thieves, murderers, martyrs and refugees. As the book guides the reader through accounts set in Jerusalem, Kosovo, Baghdad and many others, it is the stories of these people, told without prejudice or bias, that shine through.

Mueller writes with both compassion and a dark comedic edge, his prose is alluring and yet refreshingly blunt. His ability to encapsulate an entire event; its politics and hype and tragedy, within a few words, make this book really special and sets it apart from others in its field. He is a master of selecting the clearest imagery to give the reader an exact idea of what was going on in the war torn countries he visited.

The book is hefty, but then, so has been the history it covers. Handily divided up into chapters each covering a separate conflict and place, I found it made for a long term read, Mueller’s captivating writing does not bore over time. In each chapter I found myself falling for the various characters he met along his journeys and hoped, though I fear it isn’t the case, that they were all still out there surviving. Definitely the most remarkable aspect of this book, Mueller time and again brings war away from a dispute over land, oil or religion and back to the killing, terrorising and freedom taking of people, a message sometimes lost in our ever noisy, media blasted world.

In today’s modern world it can be difficult to keep up just with what’s going on around the globe, which wars have started and ended, who is hating who and which countries do and don’t exist. Mueller’s book gives a stunning yet easy to access guide to what’s been going on in the last decade (or so) and is an all out great and informative read.

Edit: I neglected to add that I actually borrowed this book from my dad (who has since reminded me of my forgetfullness regularly!) who has an amazing knowledge of war history himself and obviously pretty good book taste. Just goes to show, good literary taste can transcend generations!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...