Prior to gaining international renown for his definitive biography of Che Guevara and first-hand reporting on the war in Iraq for the New Yorker, Jon Lee Anderson wrote Guerrillas, a pioneering account of five diverse insurgent movements around the worldthe mujahedin of Afghanistan, the FMLN of El Salvador, the Karen of Burma, the Polisario of Western Sahara, and a group of young Palestinians fighting against Israel in the Gaza Strip. Making the most of unprecedented, direct access to his subjects, Anderson combines powerful, firsthand storytelling with balanced, penetrating analysis of each situation. A work of phenomenal range, analytical acuity, and human empathy, Guerrillas amply demonstrates why Jon Lee Anderson is one of our most important chroniclers of societies in crisis.
In this absorbing, instructive survey, Anderson, coauthor of War Zone, looks at five groups which ``faithfully represent'' the modern guerrilla: the mujahedin of Afghanistan, the Karen of Burma, the Polisario of Western Sahara, the Frente Farabundo Marti of El Salvador, and a group of Palestinians involved in the intifada along the Gaza Strip. Anderson is less interested in their armed anti-government activities than in demonstrating their common concerns about family, economics, law and order, and their self-created mythology. He makes the point that all guerrillas have creation myths, partly to justify the killing of other human beings, and partly to provide a spiritual basis for their actions. In novelistic detail Anderson provides examples of guerrilla justice, reviews the sexual attitudes of the five groups and describes their poignant attempts to live ``normal'' lives under dangerous circumstances. All guerrillas, he concludes, are crusaders fighting to fulfill ideals greater than themselves. (Dec.)