A journalist's unsentimental and impressionistic reminiscences of his experiences as a free-lance correspondent in embattled Afghanistan. Schultheis (Bone Games, 1985; The Hidden West, 1982) had trekked through the mountainous Asian republic on several occasions during the 1970's, long before Soviet invaders encountered implacable resistance from poorly armed guerrilla bands. Though he had been at pains to avoid serving in the US military during Vietnam, the author accompanied a photographer friend back to Afghanistan in 1984 to cover mujahedin campaigns against occupying USSR forces. To his great surprise, Schultheis found himself irresistibly drawn both to combat and to the primitive Muslim freedom fighters with whom he traveled on repeated returns to this hard land. (The title here derives from a translation of the Pashto word for the anonymous broadsides insurgents employed to rally support in urban centers.) Unaccountably, the author also found himself relishing, even reveling in, the horrific ironies, idiocies, and narrow escapes of a murderous conflict that held little interest for the outside world, and the text offers a rather full ration of the grim anecdotes he and fellow newsmen found hilarious during their typically harrowing time in country. Still, Schultheis seems not to have taken complete leave of his senses; indeed, he endured deep sorrow for the loss of fallen comrades. After Afghanistan, moreover, his personal symbol for our time became ``a bombed and blasted village, its people streaming away across a ruined landscape, and a refugee camp at the dead end of the line.'' Haunting vignettes of civil strife's barbarities—and fatal attractions.
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