“A gripping thriller. It is easy to be swept along by the fast action, and to be sucked into Charlie’s roguish world of sleazy hotels, battle-scarred hacks and shady fixers. On another level, the questions the novel raisesabout the nature of evil and about the role of observer in violent conflictare both serious and fascinating.” The Economist (UK)
Charlie Johnson in the Flames
978-0-8021-4182-8 • $12.00 • Paperback • Jan. 2005
“A gripping thriller. It’s easy to be swept along by the fast action, and to be sucked into Charlie’s roguish world of sleazy hotels, battle-scarred hacks and shady fixers. The questions the novel raises . . . are both serious and fascinating.” The Economist
Michael Ignatieff is internationally celebrated both as a commentator on moral, ethical, and political issues and as a novelist; his novel Scar Tissue was short-listed for the Booker Prize. In this, his most powerful work, he again turns to fiction, this time to explore the nature of love, loyalty, war, and guilt. His critically acclaimed New York Times Notable Book tells a story of striking contemporary relevance that has drawn comparisons to the novels of Graham Greene and Robert Stone's Dog Soldiers.
Charlie Johnson is an American journalist working for a British news agency somewhere in the Balkans. He believes that over the course of a long career he has seen everything, but suddenly he finds himself more than simply a witness. A woman who has been sheltering Charlie and his crew is doused in gasoline and set on fire. As she stumbles, burning, down the road, Charlie dashes from hiding and throws her down, rolling her over and over to extinguish the flames, and burning his hands in the process. Believing the woman's life to have been saved, Charlie is traumatized by her subsequent death. Something in him snaps. He now realizes he has just one ambition left in life: to find the colonel responsible for her death and confront him.
Charlie Johnson in the Flames is a major novel by one of the leading political thinkers of our age. A profound meditation on war and guilt, it moves with the pace of a thriller. Indeed, the image of Charlie wrestling with the burning woman might stand as a metaphor for the entire relationship between the West and the rest of the world.