The Weight of a Mustard SeedHardback
List price $23.30
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- Publisher: ATLANTIC BOOKS
- Format: Hardback | 320 pages
- Dimensions: 148mm x 210mm x 30mm | 538g
- Publication date: 1 January 2009
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1843543052
- ISBN 13: 9781843543053
- Sales rank: 721,779
If you can't protect yourself from a tyrant, how can you protect your family? And how does a proud man live with the knowledge that he can't? Reminiscent in part of "Stasiland" and "The Bookseller of Kabul", this is the story of one family's struggle to survive the iniquities of Saddam Hussein's savage dictatorship. It is a career-defining book for Wendell Steavenson.Father, husband, soldier, believer: General Kamel Sachet was a favourite of Saddam Hussein's, a decorated hero of the Iran-Iraq war, in charge of Kuwait City during Desert Storm. But Sachet was also a devoted family man. His wife, sons and daughters revered him, depended on him, suffered for him, and in the end grieved for him as he realized, too late, that he had become a participant in the terror regime that had strangled his country and destroyed its people.In "The Weight of a Mustard Seed", Wendell Steavenson tells the story of Kamel Sachet and those closest to him - his wife, his sons and daughters, his friend a psychiatrist, the head of the Republican Guard, a director of Abu Ghraib prison - during Saddam's four wars and brutal repression, the years of hard-bitten sanctions, and the internecine anarchy of the American occupation. "The Weight of a Mustard Seed" is the story of Iraq, told from the inside out. It is a book that sears the heart and pierces the soul.
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Wendell Steavenson is the author of the acclaimed book Stories I Stole (Atlantic Books, 2002), shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. She has worked for Time, and written for a variety of publications including the Telegraph, Granta, Prospect, and the New Yorker. She is presently living in Paris.
"'A sparkling, poetical hymn to the most romantic and dangerous land in the world.' Simon Sebag Montefiore 'This is the first published book of a practiced and very gifted writer, a young Kapuscinski with a literary future ahead of her...an immensely talented writer.' Neal Ascherson, Observer"
Through the grim travails of one of Saddam Hussein's top generals, journalist Steavenson (Stories I Stole, 2003) examines the dictator's edifice of totalitarianism and moral corruption.Taking her title from a verse of the Koran promising to mete out justice even to the "weight of a mustard seed," the author weaves a fascinating account of how good men went terribly wrong. Steavenson worked as a journalist in Baghdad in 2003 - 04 and continued her interviews of exiled Iraqis in London and elsewhere, probing deeply into the stories of former Baath Party officials. Through a high-level Iraqi doctor who had served in the medical corps during the course of four Iraqi wars, the author was put in touch with the surviving family of Kamel Sachet, a commander of the special forces and general in charge of the army in Kuwait City during the Gulf War. The general was shot as a traitor by order of the Iraqi president in 1998. Born to an illiterate family in 1947, Sachet became a policeman and then joined the special forces, rising through the ranks to major. He distinguished himself during the Iran-Iraq war, gaining Hussein's trust but also his occasional ire, which led to prison and torture. Sachet led the assault into Kuwait, but with the retreat and subsequent scourge by the United States, he became disillusioned with the violence and bloodshed and retired as a devout Muslim. Steavenson ably explores his and others' obedience in fulfilling the dictator's grisly demands, echoing works by Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi and Stanley Milgram.A tenacious attempt to answer the question, "How do ordinary little human cogs make up a torture machine? (Kirkus Reviews)