BEARINGS: A Foreign Correspondent's Life Behind the Lines by Edward Behr

BEARINGS: A Foreign Correspondent's Life Behind the Lines

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Churchill turns up only once, affably relieving himself in a French courtyard. Mao conceals his powerlessness under a barrage of facts. In newsman Behr's fiercely funny memoirs, history is made not at the summit but in the streets, and ""getting there is half the fun."" His personal history begins near the close of World War H when--after select French and British schooling--he is posted to the regiment of his choice, the Royal Garwhal Rifles. Quickly disabused of ""my Platonic dream of British India,"" he mucks his way through the Indian Army occupation of Sumatra (adding Monopoly money to the Dutch-Japanese-English currency mix) and, more seriously, sees Mountbatten muck up the partition of India--and invite communal massacre--by relying on an all-India army of wildly conflicting loyalties to keep the peace. On the Reuters Paris desk after the war, he scrambles with other agency correspondents for a ""beat"" (once waiting on table at a dinner for Princess Margaret), until, weary of such ""Chaplinesque nonsense,"" he leaves to freelance in erupting Algeria. A seven-year hitch with highriding, fact-crazy Time-Life follows (query on the death of cabaret star Mistinguette: ""Our information is that she had no pubic hair. Please check soonest and advise""). At one point Behr finds himself in a plane over sealed-off Syria trying to dissuade his photographer-teammate from a parachute jump; at another, he gets into Algeria by motor-launch from Mallorca--after fending off a piratical CBS-TV crew. Algeria, along with India, is the story Behr knows and tells best: ""why the Algerian National Liberation Front [was] compelled to engage in a cruel struggle for independence, using terrorism as a weapon"" (and, briefly and sadly, how the new regime immediately took on the coloration of its former colonial masters). On Vietnam, his outlook is very much like that of Gloria Emerson, one of the colleagues (some killed in action) whose courage and acumen he celebrates here. Scoop with commitment, or Waugh without spleen.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1978
Publisher: Viking