W.P. Norton & Company

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ on journalism, the best job in the world

In Literature, W.P. Norton on February 13, 2016 at 12:19 am



The Nobel Laureate in a whimsical moment.

“Journalism is an unappeasable passion that can be assimilated and humanized only through stark confrontation with reality. No one who does not have this in his blood can comprehend its magnetic hold, which is fueled by the unpredictability of life. No one who has not had this experience can begin to grasp the extraordinary excitement stirred by the news, the sheer elation created by the first fruits of an endeavor, and the moral devastation wreaked by failure. No one who was not born for this and is not prepared to live for this and this only can cling to a profession that is so incomprehensible and consuming, where work ends after each news run, with seeming finality, only to start afresh with even greater intensity the very next moment, not granting a moment of peace.”


Copyright: Gabriel Garcia Marquez; courtesy: Inter-American Press Association
–excerpted from The Reading Room blog

A reckoning: Nixon, Kissinger, Chile and Nicaragua

In W.P. Norton on February 12, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Copied from Rachel Nolan’s Facebook page

In the tradition of distinguished author Salman Rushdie, who perfectly captured the mid-80s gestalt of the tragedy and comedy of a CIA-run amok in The Jaguar SmileRobert Ritzenthaler brings to vivid life the people and the times of a post-Vietnam tragedy  that reminds us all how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise.

Think about it: Korea. Vietnam. Chile. Argentina. El Salvador. Guatemala. Death squads … trading weapons with Iran for hostages … all these things make you want to dump it in the memory hole and forget the horror.

But some 50,000 Nicaraguan men, women and children were estimated killed by counter-revolutionary fighters during the US-backed Contra war against the Sandinista government. And no-one with a pulse, let alone a heart, can disagree: it’s time for a reckoning.

Ritzenthaler gives us that and more in “The Jungles of Tiritipa,” a re-imagined journey of two young men looking for truth in a Latin America country torn by conflict during the death-spasms of the Cold War.

If only we could print the conversations Reagan had with his minions about the brutal and lawless US intervention in Nicaragua that was Reagan’s own backyard Vietnam.

Litvinenko the Chekhist and the Chechen

In Russia, W.P. Norton on January 21, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Chekhist is a time-honored name for a KGB agent. Litvinenko was an operative of the FSB, the renamed KGB.

One day (in the fall of 1996), Sasha (Litvinenko) was invited to an operational meeting. His superiors were discussing a plan to kidnap … a prominent Chechen figure in Moscow, to force his family to pay a ransom, which would then be used to buy the freedom of some of their comrades held in Chechnya. Sasha was invited to the meeting because of his extensive experience with kidnappings.

“I was sitting there, discussing how to take a man hostage,” Sasha said. … The date, time, and place for the operation were set: they would take him when he arrived at a performance by Mahmud Esambaev, the famous Chechen folk dancer.

They even developed a disinformation line, which would be planted in the media in the aftermath of the operation. (The target) was a co­ owner of the Radisson hotel in Moscow, with an American partner, Paul Tatum, who had been gunned down by an assassin near the hotel on November 3, 1996. An “FSB source” planned to plant a story saying that investigators believed that (the target’s) kidnapping was linked to Tatum’s murder.

With every passing day of preparation, Sasha became more and more depressed. He knew that after that operation he would be bound to URPA (the FSB’s Division of Operations against Criminal Organizations) forever. He even asked his old bosses … whether they would take him back. But no one wanted to mess with (Col. Evgeny Khokholkov, the head of URPA).

And then, at the last logistical meeting before the hit, the SWAT team that was supposed to snatch the target flatly refused to participate unless they were paid in advance. They had carried out a prior kidnapping on spec, they said, and they were still waiting for their share of the proceeds. Not anymore. They wanted their cut beforehand.

The operation was postponed.

Excerpted from Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB, by Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko.


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