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The Secret Life of War: Journeys Through Modern Conflict [Hardcover]

Peter Beaumont
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
Price: £16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 May 2009
Once it was simple to write about war. States or ideologies clashed; battles were fought between national armies or movements. But war has changed. War has become 'privatised' by small armed groups, states have fragmented and the conventional arms of the United States have been defeated by warlordism. Drawing on the author's experiences as the "Observer's" chief foreign correspondent, "The Secret Life of War" focuses on the human cost of war: to the combatants, to civilians and to the author, as one who bears witness. Every encounter is arresting: a visit to the bombed and abandoned home of Mullah Omar; a deserted Al Qaeda camp where Beaumont discovers documents describing a plan to bomb London; and, young bomb-throwers in Rafah refugee camp. But what marks out "The Secret Life of War" from innumerable other accounts is the sum it makes of these parts: a lasting catalogue of fear and harm, an anatomy of the human impulse to confrontation; an atlas of armed conflict. Often travelling unembedded and without bodyguards in some of the world's most dangerous locations, he has managed to achieve a rare closeness with his interview subjects, a sense of intimacy with soldiers and other combatants even in the midst of ongoing violence. Unflinching and exquisitely written, "The Secret Life of War" goes beyond classic reportage: it is a deeply personal and defining vision of the inner, secret nature of modern war.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker; First Edition; 1st printing. edition (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846551579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846551574
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 14.5 x 22.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'astonishing, not least for its careful detail and his self-searching honesty. A superb piece of work' -- Esquire

'never less than compelling and at times brilliant... Beaumont's diligent style of journalism is in short supply these days'
-- Times

The reporter and the photojournalist witness up close what no one else should see. Only those who have been there can comprehend.

The Secret Life of War is an awesome read, the best enquiry into killing and suffering I've encountered. A plea for resolution, a document of brutal honesty, the bare truth: in it beats the pulse of being there in the throes of modern conflict -- Tim Page

`Beaumont is fluid and elegant in his description of war and its symptoms' -- Evening Standard

`Beaumont writes beautifully and calmly, even when describing the fiercest and most emotive moments of war.' -- Observer

`Beaumont's book is on a different plane to the others [war literature by journalists] and will outlast many of them'
-- The Sunday Times

`Beaumont...reveal[s] his own psychological damage as he sets about dismantling the myths of war...laying out their...human cost'.
-- Metro

`Modern war is...about complexity and uncertainty, and in his accounts of his journeys through conflict, Beaumont certainly evokes this' -- Literary Review

`an intelligent, deeply perceptive work... Beaumont has slipped beneath the skin of contemporary warfare to examine what lies beneath' -- Times


'astonishing, not least for its careful detail and his self-searching honesty. A superb piece of work'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"The Secret Life of War - Journeys Through Modern Conflict" Peter Beaumont (Harvill Secker, London 2009)

Peter Beaumont, the Observers foreign affairs editor, has produced a deeply emotional and unusual chronicle of his travels through the wars of the modern era. Unlike many journalistic accounts of the Iraq, Afghan and Israel-Palestine conflicts, Beaumont is less concerned with providing a narrative of what happened but rather attempts to personalize and inject emotional understanding as to the true nature of conflict itself.

The detachment felt between the citizens of the West and the wars that are fought in their name relies upon war reporters to provide a bridge of understanding. Beaumont realizes that this is a growing disconnect and that `we talk too often about war as an alien sphere, divorced from ordinary life'. In order for those in the safe and comfortable surroundings of peacetime to understand the enormity of war, Beaumont attempts to provide the missing texture of `how conflict smells feels and tastes'. To do so the author opens up his personal responses to what he experiences and becomes an honest filter of the `alien' events themselves.

Beaumont goes back to his younger self's experience with heroin as a means of committing himself to a far more subjective narrative than the accounts of many of his fellow reporters. As well as elegant descriptions of the horrors of war; the suicide bomber's victims shoe, the smell of a gunfight, Beaumont adopts a more detailed examination of the science of conflict. Speaking to military psychologists and making mathematical connections between people and the acts of war.
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5.0 out of 5 stars hypnotic 22 May 2009
This is much more than a collection of war stories from Observer Foreign Affairs Editor Beaumont, it's a hypnotic, compelling and often chilling work that reads like a novel. Its closest literary bedfellow would be Herr's brilliant Dispatches, using a similar non-linear style to bring the reader the taste and smell of war. Beaumont is at pains - literally, it seems - to provide an honest account of the experience of war, so it's rarely a comfortable ride, but the kind you wish would never end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Secret Life of War 28 May 2009
A deeply touching and personal account of the forgotten underside of conflict, written with gripping use of language. Beaumont uses himself as a case-study of how modern conflict chips away at an individual's wellbeing and uses this to point to the far greater suffering that perpetual war causes for the characters he has met over the years and introduces us to in this book. A must read.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an extremely good but weighty book. It is very well-written, original in concept and fully deserves the 4 stars (I feel a bit mean not giving it the full 5). However, it is the product of a man emerging from 20+ years as a war junkie and the weariness comes through. I found it tough going though the nature of its subject matter. The author is trying to convey what happens in war that you don;t see on the telly, and it is not pretty. I happen to be of the view that it is not the kind of experience you can pick up from a book, however well-written. The allegory of describing in careful detail what happens when the body becomes infected after a gunshot wound alongside how a society disintegrates where previously harmony existed is very cleverly done. This same approach is taken in a number of other areas, such as what happens to the brain to feel fear. All the same, clever as it undoubtedly is, I was not sorry to reach the end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good 19 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bought as a gift for my son who said the book was a good read.
I recommend this book highly.
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