Book Talk: Blindfold: A Memoir of Capture, Torture, and Enlightenment by Theo Padnos
" Lays bare the human condition at its extremes. There is depravity and resilience, rage and revelation, and, ultimately, a triumph of the human spirit…Padnos [is] a thoughtful witness of a nightmarish world…an acutely observed account that is deeply moving in places."
—The New York Times Book Review
An award-winning journalist’s searing, extraordinary account of being kidnapped and tortured in Syria by al Qaeda for two years—a revelatory memoir about war, human nature, and endurance.
About the Book
In 2012, American journalist Theo Padnos, fluent in Arabic, Russian, German, and French, traveled to a Turkish border town to write and report on the Syrian civil war. One afternoon in October, while walking through an olive grove, he met three young Syrians—who turned out to be al Qaeda operatives—and they captured him and kept him prisoner for nearly two years. On his first day, in the first of many prisons, Padnos was given a blindfold—a grime-stained scrap of fabric—that was his only possession throughout his horrific ordeal.
Now, in Blindfold, Padnos recounts his time in captivity in Syria, where he was frequently tortured at the hands of the al Qaeda affiliate, Jebhat al Nusra. We learn not only about Padnos’s harrowing experience, but we also get a firsthand account of life in a Syrian village, the nature of Islamic prisons, how captors interrogate someone suspected of being CIA, the ways that Islamic fighters shift identities and drift back and forth through the veil of Western civilization, and much more.
No other journalist has lived among terrorists for as long as Theo has—and survived. As a resident of thirteen separate prisons in every part of rebel-occupied Syria, Theo witnessed a society adrift amid a steady stream of bombings, executions, torture, prayer, fasting, and exhibitions, all staged by the terrorists. Living within this tide of violence changed not only his personal identity but also profoundly altered his understanding of how to live.
Offering fascinating, unprecedented insight into the state of Syria today, Blindfold is an astonishing portrait of courage that combines the emotional power of a captive’s memoir with a journalist’s account of a culture and a nation in conflict that is as urgent and important as ever.
Reviews & What Readers Say
“ [I]mmediate and a solid warning to enterprise journalists to give dangerous subjects plenty of distance."
“Theo Padnos was held, isolated, and tortured for almost two years by the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. It would be hard for such a dramatic account to disappoint, and it doesn’t. But Padnos’s book is so much more. We see a narrator who is deeply human, vulnerable, and compelling. His thoughts are enough like our own that we easily imagine ourselves there, held captive by Islamists. His writing is rich and thoughtful and emotionally revelatory. This is a brilliant book.”
―David Bradley, chairman, Atlantic Media
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