‘MY HANDS ARE UP TO THE ELBOWS IN BLOOD’ Hitlist THE BEST BOOKS, COMICS & EVENTS*
✽✽ Ruth Thomas Here comes a reading from the talented author of short story collection Super Girl. The Edinburgh Bookshop, Thu 4 Feb. ✽✽ Mark Kermode The once massively bequiffed man whom some are tipping to take over Jonny Ross’ BBC film show drops by for a couple of events in which he enthusiastically talks film c/o his It’s Only a Movie memoir. Cameo, Edinburgh, Mon 8 Feb; Glasgow Film Theatre, Tue 9 Feb. ✽✽ Louise Welsh With a new novel, Naming the Bones, about to explode upon us, it’s time to celebrate one of our foremost literary talents. For her Edinburgh event, she will be accompanied by Dan Rhodes whose new book Little Hands Clapping gained a full house of five stars from us while her Glasgow date has her flying solo. Blackwell, Edinburgh, Wed 10 Feb; Ramshorn Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 11 Feb. ✽✽ John Hegley Everyone’s favourite bespectacled Luton lyricist does his bit for the Carry a Poem campaign. Lots of stuff about potatoes, fathers and the evils of contact lenses, maybe. Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, Fri 12 Feb. ✽✽ The Golden Hour A literary cabaret for the latest Edinburgh City of Literature One Book/One City campaign features readings from Claire Askew, Ewan Morrison and Tom Pow. Forest Café, Edinburgh, Wed 17 Feb. ✽✽ Anna Politkovskaya See preview, left. Harvill Secker. ✽✽ Robin Robertson The Scottish Forward Prize-winning author delivers The Wrecking Light, a collection of powerful long and short verse whose contemporary imagery draws heavily on classical literature. See review, page 35. Picador.
A V E R A D N O B A N E X
The truth hurts In 2006, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered near her home. Brian Donaldson wonders whether justice will ever be served?
In a world where the worst atrocity some journalists face is their copy being ravaged by unscrupulous subeditors the fate of our kin abroad make such concerns seem horribly petty. At the start of the year, Siberian reporter Konstantin Popov was found dead in a police cell having suffered severe internal injuries. Friends allege that he was subjected to a prolonged and sadistic beating by officers, including being raped with a broom handle. In December, 27 journalists were massacred during an ambush in the Philippines. Tales of kidnapping and death threats are almost routine in Guatemala, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The case of Anna Politkovskaya haunts the profession. The arch critic of the Russian war in Chechnya and an outspoken anti-Putin dissident, she was gunned down in the lift of her Moscow apartment block on 7 October 2006 – a pistol with a silencer was later found at the scene of the crime. Vladimir Putin was celebrating his birthday that day, but emerged three days later to describe Politkovskaya as ‘insignificant’ and ‘well-known only in the West’. One year on, Russia’s prosecutor general Yury Chaika gravely announced that the blame rested with a Moscow criminal gang but that ‘operational support’ for the assassination had been given by the police and officers of the FSB (the spy division formerly known as the KGB). A month later, Chaika was removed from the case and a catalogue of police errors allowed key suspects to be released or flee the country; the judge announced the trial of four defendants would take place in a closed session, falsely claiming this to be the wishes of the jury; the lawyer for the
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Politkovskaya family suggested that the defendants (who are later acquitted) were victims of an elaborate set-up, and crucial evidence such as photographs of suspects and video footage of the likely assassin entering her apartment block went missing.
Someone somewhere clearly felt that Politkovskaya, whose reports appeared in the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was not quite so minor a figure as Putin had claimed. Just what threat did she pose to those dark forces at play in Russia and in Chechnya, where a Kremlin-backed warlord Ramzan Kadyrov rules with violent impunity? Portraits of that leader line the streets, Saddam Hussein-style, while he barely hides his murderous intentions, having once told Natalia Estemirova, another now dead human rights journalist, ‘yes, my hands are up to the elbows in blood . . . I will kill and kill bad people.’ In Nothing but the Truth, a visceral and now poignant collection of her writings for Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya does what she aimed to do best: simply relay her observations and let the reader decide. She is unfailingly caustic about her fellow journalists in Russia who she views as lackeys of the Kremlin, deliberately ignoring the pain and anguish inflicted by Putin, and Boris Yeltsin before him. Campaigning journalism has lost many of its most strident practitioners down the years, but the loss of Anna Politkovskaya leaves a stain on Russia and its friends across Europe.
Nothing but the Truth is out now published by Harvill Secker.