"Terror is the given of the place."
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.
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Didion writes like an orthopedic surgeon cuts