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A History of Bombing
ISBN 1565846257 / 9781565846258 / 1-56584-625-7
Publisher New Press
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Sven Lindqvist has acquired a reputation as an innovative writer with an unorthodox line in cultural histories, so expect the unexpected with A History of Bombing. Rather than a straightforward linear narrative, Lindqvist has divided the book into a labyrinth of 399 short sections that can be read in any number of orders. The author has established 22 entrances into the book and to follow the different themes you have to weave your way backward and forward through the text; if you get waylaid by another section en route you end up somewhere else entirely. The idea behind this structure is to demonstrate the chaos of history and the difficulties in navigating a coherent path through differing viewpoints and interpretations. As an intellectual conceit it might sound brilliant but the reality is somewhat different. Reading this book is like wading through treacle; it is demanding, time-consuming and ultimately frustrating. This is a pity, because had Lindqvist kept to a more conventional structure one suspects his arguments might have carried more weight. Lindqvist draws his material from both official and personal sources and his aim is to make clear the immorality of bombing. Unfortunately he is not always a reliable witness, as his desire to prove his case results in some important documentary omissions. His discussions of both the blanket bombing of Germany during the Second World War and the dropping of the atom bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki contain almost no reference to how events might have panned out had they not taken place and whether there might have been an even greater loss of life. For the reader with tenacity and perseverance there is a decent enough polemic to be found; for those who are looking for a more detailed and accessible history, Robin Neillands's The Bomber War is a far more rewarding read. --John Crace [via]