Guest: Thomas Goltz, author, Chechnya Diary: A War Correspondent's Story of Surviving the War in Chechnya by Thomas Goltz
Publishers Weekly: Mortar fire booming in the distance, smoke pluming behind the hills and the just-out-of-camera-range repeat of machine-gun fire frustrate and enthrall freelance war correspondent Goltz as he chronicles his attempt to capture on videotape Russia's nearly decade-long war with the republic of Chechnya. Less an evenhanded exploration of the byzantine quilt of atrocity and retribution characterizing the post-Soviet conflict, this is more a personal tale of Goltz's relationship with one town (Samashki) and, in particular, one man: a fixer named Hussein who risks his life and, later, exile, in an effort to help the reporter (on contract assignment for ABC News at first) get the story. With a keen observational eye and an ear for characterizing detail, Goltz describes his encounters with the people of the small Chechen village, which suffered a brutal pounding at the hands of the Russian military in 1995. But the book's most compelling aspects are Goltz's ruminations on the impact he, as a Western journalist, has on the events that he set out to objectively report on. Citing as an epigraph a bit of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle-"the observer affects the observed"-the author proceeds to detail how his work with Hussein, and subsequent departure from Samashki right before a big Russian attack, helped cast him, in the eyes of the villagers, in the role of KGB agent and Hussein as a Russian collaborator. Details of his resulting trip to Hussein's home-in-exile in Kazakhstan round out the tale. Goltz's powerful conclusion: war leaves no innocents, let alone innocence. Photos not seen by PW. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.