Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq

Author: Rory Stewart

First line: In April 2002, after twenty months traveling in Asia, I returned from Afghanistan to my home in the Highlands of Scotland, a mile from the nearest town on the edge of a wood.

Why you should read this book: Picking up where his last narrative left off, the inimitable Stewart begins his new incarnation as Seyyed Rory, the Coalition-appointed deputy governor to two provinces in the marsh regions of southern Iraq, facing off against various political, religious, and feudal-tribal factions as he struggles to create democracy and oversee services in the cradle of civilization. After decades of police rule, most Iraqis reject the Coalition's notions of democracy and insist that security is the most important issue, while Stewart butts heads with both Iraqi and Coalition forces in his efforts to keep the water running, the electricity flowing, and the schools open, all in the face of constant insurgencies and allegiance shifts, and racing against the clock to complete projects before the scheduled handover. In a civilization where revenge and blood feuds pile up one atop the other, in some cases stretching back over 1300 years, Stewart's level head and diplomatic impulses smooth over escalating events and provide an air of good humor in a book that may illuminate for Westerners the true situation in Iraq and the deep clash of cultures inherent in the American invasion.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're one hundred percent sure that, if you die killing Christians, you'll go directly to heaven.

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