The Devil is a Black Dog: stories from the Middle East and beyond

Sandor Jaszberenyi

The Devil is a Black Dog: stories from the Middle East and beyond
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The Devil is a Black Dog: stories from the Middle East and beyond

Sandor Jaszberenyi

“I don’t regret anything, really. I never wanted to live a sensible life … I didn’t want a sensible death either.”

War-torn Africa, a Middle East in crisis, and post-Soviet Eastern Europe form the backdrop to the stories told in The Devil Is a Black Dog - stories based on the extraordinary experiences of acclaimed photojournalist Sándor Jászberényi. From Cairo to the Gaza Strip, from Benghazi to Budapest, his characters contemplate the meaning of home, love, family, and friendship in the face of brutality.

Immersed in the societies he reports on and heedless in the face of war and revolution, Jászberényi observes mothers, martyrs, soldiers, and lovers who must confront the extremes of contemporary experience. In spare, evocative prose, he combines fact and fiction to create a profoundly true portrait of the humanity behind the headlines.

Review

Hungarian war correspondent Sándor Jászberényi’s The Devil is a Black Dog is a fascinating collection that sits somewhere on the plane separating fiction and nonfiction. These nineteen interconnected short stories work to reinforce the argument that as readers we sometimes give too much value to this distinction. While many of these stories are told from the perspective of our fictional narrator and war correspondent Daniel Marosh, Jászberényi’s own considerable experience covering conflict in the Middle East and Africa gives The Devil is a Black Dog remarkable power. These tales of war correspondents, combatants and victims are as affecting as any nonfiction.

Jászberényi’s stories are set in countries the author has either lived in or reported from, and all explore the human side of war through myriad individual perspectives. From Cairo to the Gaza Strip, from Benghazi to Budapest, we encounter mothers, soldiers and journalists. Each slice-of-life tale lends a relatable face to the issue at hand. From across the globe the concept of living each day within the parameters of a warzone is often too confounding or alien to even consider, let alone empathise with. Powerful fiction like The Devil is a Black Dog set in places rife with hardship that you might never travel to allow Western readers to consider the violent reality that so many face. This book offers a window into that reality, simultaneously and disturbingly presenting the hardened insensitivity of the reporters and photographers who are expected to shine a light on these horrors for the outside world.

This is an exceptionally honest book, and an unsettling one. Jászberényi never risks glorifying war and violence, instead using great sensitivity and a wry sense of humour to share the stories that he has no doubt personally encountered in his career. The Devil is a Black Dog is a worthy companion to Phil Klay’s 2014 National Book Award winning Redeployment, a similarly moving collection of exceptional stories written by a US Marine officer turned writer. Like Klay’s, Jászberényi’s debut collection is sharply observed and intensely affecting.


Stella Charls is marketing and events coordinator for Readings.

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