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Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings by…

Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings (edition 2010)

by Sydney Schanberg

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Title:Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings
Authors:Sydney Schanberg
Info:Potomac Books Inc. (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 242 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2013 challenge

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Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings by Sydney Schanberg



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Selected articles from Pulitzer prize winning journalist Sydney Schanberg, particularly known for highlighting the atrocities and quite frankly shocking external political manipulations in Cambodia that was being overshadowed by the Vietnam war. His most famous story, included here was also the basis for the superb film The Killing Fields (One of my favourite films, highly recommended).

It’s a hard book to review. Whilst a plea from a war reporter for peace, it could also be said to be too bitty and isn’t an book to be read straight through. It covers the Cambodia genocide, the horrendous birth of Bangladesh, Vietnam war, thoughts on Iraq and research into Vietnam POWs left behind and denied. Schanberg writes in a beautifully clear and passionate way. Context is provided, the selected articles show a timeline (in particular the Cambodia pieces) and it’s very easy to gain insight. It’s not just historical reportage though there are essays on language of war (the horrors hidden by “collateral damage”) and the battle between governments & their reporters and the damage to the "truth" that are fascinating.

Why I read it though, was for the Cambodian section and the most famous story. It’s worth the price of admission alone.

It’s a hard story to summarise, it deals with the fall of country into horror, the forced march of a population from towns and cities into the countryside and the starvation that follows, the culling of all intellectuals (teachers, writers, doctors), the fields of mass murder. It is a huge story made personal. It is a story of hope and friendship, of one who has crippling survivors guilt for failing to save his friend and the other who survives against huge odds. A story of journalism and war, clash of cultures. It’s a short piece that says so many things.

It is hard to review because of the impact it made when I was young, so formative and now so familiar. I cannot believe though that this is not worth reading to this unfamiliar with the story, that you won’t gain something.

Recommended: Though it’s very hard to find outside of a e-book so perhaps just track down the film. I guarantee its worth it. ( )
  clfisha | Dec 23, 2013 |

Schanberg was a journalist for the New York Times covering the war in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over the country. The Killing fields, as book & film, is a very powerful story of friendship and survival and is the story of Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist. Pran was left behind when all the foreigners were ejected from Cambodia and lived in the then closed Khmer Rouge regime as Pol Pot enacted his Year 0 social experiment on a grand scale. I finished this on the bus on the way to Phnom Penh and visiting S-21 and the Killing Fields with it so fresh in my mind was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. However it doesn’t need to be read in situ, it is a brilliant book full of stirring writing and if you haven’t seen the film I thoroughly recommend it as it is a very good adaptation. This book adds some of Schanberg’s other war journalism in Vietnam & Bangladesh as well as his coverage of MIA US servicemen left behind by the US government and his thoughts on the war in Iraq. The message of the book is that war is never clinical, that “collateral damage” is a sanitisation of murder and that the abstraction of making decisions way behind the front lines contributes to atrocity.

Overall – Powerfully intelligent writing on the subject of war. Highly recommended. Have a box of tissues to hand when reading though. ( )
  psutto | Dec 19, 2013 |
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This first-ever anthology of the war reporting and commentary of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sydney Schanberg is drawn from the hundreds of articles he has written for the New York Times, Newsday, the Village Voice, and various magazines. The centerpiece of the collection is his signature work, "The Death and Life of Dith Pran" (New York Times Magazine). This article became the foundation of Roland Joffe's acclaimed film The Killing Fields (1984), which explored the Khmer Rouge-led genocide in Cambodia during the late 1970s.… (more)

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