The place is El Salvador in 1982, at the ghastly height of its civil war. The writer is Joan Didion, who delivers an anatomy of that country's particular brand of terror - its mechanisms, rationales, and intimate relation to United States foreign policy.
As ash travels from battlefields to body dumps, interviews a puppet president, and considers the distinctly Salvadoran grammar of the verb "to disappear," Didion gives us a book that is germane to any country in which bloodshed has become a standard tool of politics.
©1983 Joan Didion (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
In 1983, when Salvador was first published, I was nine. I remember those years as being ones where I heard about people disappeared, death squads, kidnappings, priests killed, nuns raped. Who left me in front of the television? It was the second major international crisis that became part of my childhood dreams. I remember 3-5 years earlier, being freaked out by the Iran hostage crisis. I was aware of angry protesters, machine guns, blindfolds, the Ayatollah Khomeini's rants and a huge dark hole of uncertainty.
While the Iranian hostage crisis shares very little DIRECTLY with the civil war in El Salvador -- excepting the disgusting way people treat each other, the screwed up way that America dealt with both Central America (El Salvador & Nicaragua) and Iran, and the lies we tell ourselves to pretend things are getting better -- these two countries did exist in my childhood nightmares. The FMLN death squads and Tehran's angry students swirled together in my dreams. Thirty years later, as an adult, the boogie men of my childhood were recreated as I read Salvador. Didion writes like an orthopedic surgeon cuts: straight, deep, confidently and TO the bone. This book scared the shit out of me. It made me sad. It made me want the comfort of my mom. Tonight, I'm sleeping with the lights on.
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