Bernadotte and Shamir

Marton's qualifications to write a book about the Middle East are slightly higher than Bernadotte's were to make peace there, but in the end it comes to the same: two boy scouts setting up pup-tents in minefields.

Issue: Summer 1995

Kati Marton, A Death in Jerusalem (New York: Pantheon, 1994)

In one of those coincidences that would have delighted Arthur Koestler, the only time I met Kati Marton, author of A Death in Jerusalem, was at a dinner about ten minutes before I was asked to review her book. "My book," she said immediately upon meeting me, "tells the truth about Shamir the assassin." I thought at the time there was a little too much happy enthusiasm about this dire assessment of a former prime minister.

This is Marton's third non-fiction book and its subject is, once more, a life cut short by murder (her previous books include studies of Raoul Wallenberg and the murdered American journalist George Polk). This time it is the 1948 assassination of UN Mediator Count Bernadotte by Jewish extremists in Jerusalem. The book, as reviewers like to say before getting their teeth into the author's wrist, does raise some intriguing questions. But in the case of A Death in Jerusalem, the questions are not only about the book's subject but about the personality and motivation of its author.

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