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“Vital, eminently readable. . . . Anderson is a good, plain writer with an eye for detail.” Wally Hammond, Time Out London (UK)
The Lion's Grave
Dispatches from Afghanistan
978-0-8021-4025-8 • $13.00 • Paperback • Sep. 2003
Jon Lee Anderson arrived in Afghanistan ten days before U.S. bombers began pounding Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. He followed the fighting and reported the peaceor what passed for itas The New Yorker’s only correspondent on the ground. Anderson witnessed the fall of Kunduz, one of the Taliban’s last bastions, and made a hair-raising trip across the Hindu Kush to Kabul, where the interim government was clumsily taking power. In Kandahar, he found that the Taliban were not simply the austere, self-abnegating men they claimed to be. His reports include portraits of warlords, crafty politicians, fighters who have a distinctly non-Western view of loyalty, and an American soldier of fortune. Anderson’s report on the search for Osama bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora is published here for the first time. In the final dispatch, he investigates the assassination of the charismatic Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoudthe Lion of the Panjshirwho was murdered by Al Qaeda agents two days before the attacks of September 11th in New York and Washington. Massoud’s death haunts all of Anderson’s stories about what happened in Afghanistan in the months that followed.
Anderson had covered the mujahideen’s war against the communist-backed government in Kabul over a decade earlier, but even seasoned reporters had a rough time moving around Afghanistan now. Most of the country had no electricity or phone service, and Anderson communicated with The New Yorker via e-mail over a satellite phone powered by a gasoline generator. He and his traveling companion, the young German photographer Thomas Dworzak, whose photographs accompany the dispatches here, fought their own battles with sandstorms, bandits, recalcitrant equipment, and officialdom. A selection of Anderson’s e-mails to the magazine frame the dispatches in The Lion’s Grave, providing an intimate narrative of what it was like to report a high-technology conflict in feudal terrain.
Jon Lee Anderson’s astutely observed accounts, in the distinguished tradition of New Yorker war reporting, illuminate a complex conflict in a society to which we will be inextricably bound for some time to come.