A Thousand Suns: Witness to History

Lapierre, Dominique

Published by Warner Books, 1999
ISBN 10: 0446525359 / ISBN 13: 9780446525350
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Signed 0446525359 Inscribed by the author on plate tipped onto the front endsheet. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: The author describes the most meaningful stories he covered as a journalist, including the execution of Caryl Chessman, the fight to save Africa's elephants, the founding of Israel, a legendary Spanish bullfighter, and the struggle of Calcutta's poor

Review: Dominique Lapierre was one of the pioneers of the subjective news story, a man who was never afraid to put himself, both physically and emotionally, at the heart of his reports. It is a style that has often been imitated, but as A Thousand Suns shows, it has seldom been bettered. In 1944, Lapierre won his own footnote in history by misdirecting the German tanks and accelerating the liberation of Paris by two days. You could argue that ever since, he has been making sure that other people get the credit they deserve.

A Thousand Suns is both a personal memoir and a testament to the notable characters Lapierre met along the way, from the great and the good, such as Mother Teresa, to the infamous (such as Caryl Chessman, who was executed in San Quentin in 1960), to the more anonymous. Throughout, Lapierre is always looking for the personal details that make the stories come alive. And he finds them. He discovers that General von Choltitz, the Nazi in charge of occupied Paris, had had an overcoat made in the summer of 1944 "because he thought it would be cold in a POW camp." Kozo Okamato, the only surviving Red Army Faction (RAF) member to bomb Lod airport, tells him he became a terrorist after being dumped twice by girlfriends. "At the time the RAF seemed a less demanding lover." These are the insights that animate Lapierre's work, and he is never afraid to find the humanity in even the most apparently evil of people.

However, this tendency is both a virtue and his undoing, as Lapierre sometimes allows his obvious affection for his subject to cloud all judgment. An example can be found in his accounts of Lord Mountbatten of Burma. Mountbatten was a known charmer, but his record on the partition of India does not bear scrutiny. His fudging of the boundaries, and the speed with which he acted, was undoubtedly a significant factor in the mass bloodshed that followed. Lapierre lets him off the hook with a single sentence: "By extricating his country from the Indian wasps' nest without spilling a drop of British blood, Mountbatten had saved Great Britain from one of those colonial wars of which France had made a speciality." Even for a partisan observer, this simply will not do. But a journalist who cares too much is always preferable to one who doesn't care at all, and Lapierre especially so, for the range and depth of his reportage, if nothing else. He harks back to a more innocent age when public figures were more open and trusting; few journalists would get anything like the access to equivalent figures today. Enjoy him, warts and all. You won't see his like again. --John Crace, Amazon.co.uk

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Bibliographic Details

Title: A Thousand Suns: Witness to History
Publisher: Warner Books
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition

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