By Nusrat Ibrahim
Acclaimed British journalist Robert Fisk was in
For someone whose life reads like a
“It was a movie that propelled me into journalism: Foreign Correspondent by Alfred Hitchcock,” Fisk says.
“Joel McCrea, played an American reporter called John Jones, who is sent to
He also gains the love of the most beautiful woman in the movie, like a much-deserved perk for such an exciting career.
“The movie ends with a radio announcer introducing the heroic reporter on the air, “We have as a guest tonight one of the soldiers of the press, one of the little army of historians who are writing history from beside the cannon's mouth. I knew what I wanted to be and never looked back at my decision.”
Based in the
And it's these experiences that have culminated in his latest book, “The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the
A daunting assignment
I knew I would be dealing with no ordinary journalist when I was told that Fisk was coming to
Nervous and eager to meet him, I prepared for the event a month in advance. I tried to get as many details as possible from his publisher about the man and his book.
At 2 am, I wait at the
At home in the
After decades as a
His first media interview was scheduled for 10.30 am, followed by two more and then a radio show. He speaks with confidence; there is enthusiasm in his voice and he has a sharp wit. Fisk is forthright about his thoughts about the present state of the world, yet deftly sidesteps any personal questions. Indeed, the man who has interviewed Yasser Arafat, Hosni Mubarak, Colonel Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden is a thorough professional when it comes to being interviewed. The fact that he has won many awards does not seem to affect him and he rejects any claims of celebrity status.
“I don't think about my achievements, whatever they may have been. I don't really care,” he says.
Fisk would rather concentrate on more pressing matters: namely, the state of the world. “I do not have an ideal picture of the world. I am always thinking about events that are happening around the world.”
Robert Fisk was born in 1946 in
By the time [Robert] was 14 he could recite the names of all the offensives, In The Great War for Civilization, he writes that he had seen “all the graveyards, had walked through overgrown trenches and touched the rusted helmets of British soldiers and the corroded German mortars in decaying museums.”
Fisk's father died 13 years ago at the age of 93 and his son inherited all his campaign medals.
Fisk received a bachelor of arts in English and classics at
His career as a journalist started with the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, then the Sunday Express diary, after which he begged The Times for a job. In the 1970s he was sent to
In 1974, he covered the Carnation Revolution in
He lived in
Fisk's articles often criticise the foreign policies of the British and US governments. His reporting style has set a precedent for fellow journalists. There is even a term coined for it “fisking”: the point-by-point refutation of a story.
Fisk says he believes journalism must “challenge authority – all authority – especially so when governments and politicians take us to war”. Among his laurels are the Amnesty International UK Press Award in 1998 for his reports from
Fisk is admired across the globe. Bin Laden, in his video message prior to the 2004 presidential election in the
Fisk believes good journalism relies on breaking news, not rehashing it. “Good journalism is a story or a report in a newspaper that I want to read because it tells me something that I don't know, as opposed to old clich?s.”
A memoir of 30 years
Fisk says his latest book is partly a personal memoir and partly setting the facts straight about the
“… My book is very much based on facts. A lot of research has gone into the book. It took me 18 months to complete it.
“The book was first meant to be a reporter's chronicle of the
Fisk is no newcomer to writing books. “I wrote a book about Northern Ireland and the failure of the British army to take on the Protestants of Northern Ireland in 1974 [The Point of No Return: the strike which broke the British in Ulster] and from then onwards I like the idea of writing a book because it taught me about what I had seen.
“I also did an academic book [In Time of War:
Fisk arrives 15 minutes early for the launch. The crowds have already started to assemble inside and outside the shop. He is suffering from a bad toothache and one of the bookshop's staff goes running to the nearest pharmacy to look for clove paste to ease the pain.
Despite all this, Fisk's smile and joyous disposition remain sincere. He shakes hands and falls into a comfortable t?te-?-t?te with bystanders. As soon as the microphone is handed over to Fisk, people in the crowd start shooting questions at him.
People ask him about his meetings with Bin Laden, his views of Tony Blair, George Bush and Saddam Hussain, the Iran-Iraq war, the future of the
“The reason why I started my book with my interviews with Bin Laden and ended the book with a picture of him is I wanted to remind the world that he is still out there and amongst us.”
The session goes on for almost two hours. Eventually it winds up and Fisk stations himself at the signing table at the front of the bookshop. Most people have more than two books to be signed. Fisk signs every copy by writing “
He sometimes includes personal messages, as requested by readers.
Fisk chats with everyone, sometimes recognizing fellow journalists or people he has met during his travels. He freely hands out his card. One person points out the lack of an e-mail address on his card, to which Fisk replies, “The internet, for me, is a waste of time and I prefer not sitting in front of the computer answering to e-mails for hours at a stretch.”
In under two hours he signs more than 300 copies of his book. In fact, the bookstore runs out of copies. That evening at dinner, Fisk lets down his guard a little. When asked about his next book, he replies, “I am too exhausted and overwhelmed by the tiredness of it all [the worldwide tour].”
But what overwhelmed me was meeting Robert Fisk. His experiences leave me feeling very small. There is so much suffering in the countries close to us but we are all so preoccupied with our own trivial problems. People like Fisk keep us from getting too complacent about issues surrounding us.
(- Nusrat Ibrahim is marketing executive Jashanmal Books & Publication Division.)
Inside the masterpiece
The Great War for Civilisation: Conquest of the
The original contract for this book was signed with publishers Michael Joseph 16 years ago. But when Fisk's editor, Louisa Haynes, moved to Fourth Estate, so did he. Over 10 years ago he told Haynes that, instead, he was going to write the story of the Middle East as he witnessed it and at the same time go back into history to the First World War, the connection being that it was the First World War and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles that gave rise to the modern Middle East.
Fisk wanted to write a non-chronological account of Middle Eastern history. The book starts with his meeting Bin Laden in
Name of the Book: The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk
Source: Gulf News Dubai daily, 31 December 2005
END OF THE GULF NEWS ARTICLE
ROBERT FISK AND THE ARMENIAN GONOCIDE
On 5 August 2000, Robert Fisk, one of the best known journalists in the World, wrote the following words in “The Independent”
(http://www.independent.co.uk/) British daily, describing his experience in
“In the spring of 1993, with my car keys, I slowly unearthed a set of skulls from the clay wall of a hill in northern
Robert Fisk has always maintained that all acts of genocide deserve equal recognition. This is why when the first official United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Days commemoration which was planned to take place in 27 January 2001 announced that it will not include the Armenian Genocide, he wrote a condemning article in the 27 November 2000 issue of “The Independent” titled “Why the Armenian Holocaust must not be airbrushed from history”. The article is concluded by the following thoughts:
“The Armenians have long commemorated their Holocaust on 24 April each year – the date in 1915 when the first Armenian intellectuals were rounded up and liquidated by Turks in