CHILDREN OF WAR by Roger Rosenblatt

CHILDREN OF WAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the fall of 1981, Rosenblatt traveled to Northern Ireland, Israel, Lebanon, Thailand, and Hong Kong, gathering interviews and impressions for his 1982 Time cover-story about children growing up in the world's war zones; here, then, is most of that Time material--revised, expanded (with overextended essay material), and updated with a 1982 trip to post-invasion Beirut. In Belfast, Rosenblatt talks to Catholic children who have lost parents, brothers, and sisters in British army assaults; but most ""had no harsh words for Protestants in general, expressed not the slightest affection or admiration for the IRA as their defending army""; and later he finds ""the same antiviolent attitudes on the other side, among the Protestants,"" as well as a few grim ironies. (""I wouldn't go there,"" says a 15-year-old Belfast girl of New York. ""Murders everywhere."") In the Mideast, Rosenblatt does find hatred--among the Israeli children of terrorized Qiryat Shemona, or among the Palestinian children in Lebanon and elsewhere--who seem to thrive on ""ardent, monotonous nationalism,"" on dreams of war and an Oz-like Palestine. But, pausing for an interlude/summary, Rosenblatt stresses (more than a little against the evidence) the absence of revenge feelings as the most dramatic common denominator of his journey thus far. Then he goes on to Cambodia, where survivor/victims of Pol Pot genocide emphasize a strange sort of revenge (""Revenge is to make a bad man better than before"")--leading to some murky Rosenblatt ruminations on the subject, with only the sketchiest exploration of these children's particular cultural background. And conversations with Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong--like Khu, a poor, orphaned, terrorized boy who serenely says ""Everything is beautiful""--give rise to musings on whether goodness is innate or learned. Throughout, in fact, Rosenblatt seems (as he often does in his Time essays) too ready to slide into shallow, overreaching generalizations: the conclusions here, which lean towards the inspirational (and the ethnocentric), are less than persuasive. But when not straining for whole-earth insights into war, good, evil, and childhood, this short book offers a sturdy range of arresting particulars--in the words and faces of the children themselves.

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1983
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday