Martyrs’ Day

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Michael Kelly won two prizes for his inspired reporting of the Gulf War and its aftermath. The fruit of his remarkable experience is MARTYRS’ DAY: CHRONICLE OF A SMALL WAR. Kelly’s book is an absorbing narrative of his encounters with ordinary men and women on both sides of the war. He was present in Baghdad for the opening of Operation Desert Storm. Kelly brilliantly re-creates the delusive atmosphere fostered by Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian regime in Iraq, which contributed so much to the coming of the war. Dodging American warplanes, Kelly escaped from Iraq and visited Jordan and Israel, where he observed the Palestinians’ obsessive enthusiasm for Saddam Hussein’s Scud missile attacks on Israel and the Israelis stoic calm in the face of this modern Blitz. From Israel, Kelly traveled to the front in Saudi Arabia. Here he rode with Coalition forces in the great armored sweep across the desert which broke the Iraqi hold on Kuwait. He entered Kuwait City with these victorious troops.

The heart of MARTYRS’ DAY is Kelly’s exploration of the impact of the Gulf War on the people caught up in it. His account attains great dramatic and moral force as he describes the atrocities committed by the Iraqis and the burned out wreckage of Iraqi convoys strafed by the Americans. Here, with masterful prose, Kelly illumines both the depths to which men can sink when given absolute power over others, and the horrors wrought by modern push-button warfare. Kelly also soberly recounts the aftermath of the war—the grisly policing of the battlefield, Kuwaiti reprisals against suspected collaborators, and the sad fate of the Kurdish rebels of northern Iraq, betrayed by the victorious Coalition and driven from their homes by Saddam Hussein.

Michael Kelly’s moving book is a necessary reminder of the blood and tears which lie beneath every glorious victory.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXIX, March 1, 1993, p 1153.

The Christian Science Monitor. April 1, 1993, p.13.

Library Journal. CXVIII, February 15, 1993, p.182.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. March 14, 1993, p.4.

The Nation. CCLVI, May 3, 1993, p.605.

National Review. XLV, March 29, 1993, p.77.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, April 4, 1993, p. 11.

The New Yorker. LXIX, April 26, 1993, p.114.

Time. CXLI, March 22, 1993, p.79.

The Wall Street Journal. March 18, 1993, p. AlO.