DUST OF THE SAINTS: War-Tom Afghanistan by Radek Sikorski

DUST OF THE SAINTS: War-Tom Afghanistan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A young journalist's vivid account of a venturesome dash he made in 1987 across embattled Afghanistan to the holy city of Herat, known to its inhabitants as Dust of the Saints. A political refugee from Poland who came to the UK in 1982, at age 19, Sikorski makes no pretense at objectivity. At one point, in fact, he had considered volunteering to soldier with the mujahedin against USSR occupation forces. Cooler heads, howerver, persuaded the author he could accomplish more with a pen or tape recorder than a sword. Unofficially sponsored by the BBC and London's Observer, Sikorski went to see for himself how Herat, celebrated for its beautiful mosques and mausoleums, had fared in the wake of a bloody anti-Communist uprising. Under the protection of a charismatic guerrilla chieftain named Ismael Khan, he trekked to his goal through Soviet-held wasteland by foot, on horseback, and in the crowded beds of supply trucks. Along the way, the author and his rotating escort of resistance fightere were attacked by helicopter gunships, witnessed gratuitous aerial assaults on defenseless villages, and enjoyed the matchless hospitality of a Muslim people united against a common foe. When he finally reached Herat, Sikorski found the shrine, one of Islam's most sacred, still in enemy hands--an outcome that, ironically, had saved it from complete destruction. In recounting his risky sojourn, the author offers illuminating asides on Muslim culture, history, and traditions. He also provides lively profiles of primitive tribesman whose Inshallah (God willing) approach to life frequently exasperated Western allies and invariably confounded their Russian adversaries. As Sikorski makes clear, though, the resilient Afghani were fearsome, effective warriors once equipped with modern weaponry, including Stinger missiles. A memorable blood-and-bullets memoir, and an intriguing complement to Gennady Bocharov's equally fine Russian Roulette: Afghanistan Through Russian Eyes (p. 975).

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1990
Publisher: Paragon House