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Some Other Rainbow.

In February 1986 John McCarthy, a television journalist on assignment in Beirut, was plucked from a car at gunpoint for no obvious reason and thrown into a filthy cell. If this sounds familiar, it is because such occurrences are still happening too often for the world to ignore.

For five long years, McCarthy lived in dark, cramped and vermin-infested conditions. He was chained to the wall, beaten with a rifle and allowed only twice-daily visits to the lavatory, gagged and blindfolded, escorted by a guard who watched his ablutions from the open door. Yet in spite of these indignities, McCarthy remained polite and even-tempered throughout his ordeal.

In Some other Rainbow he describes the horror of being shunted to 13 different locations in cardboard boxes, refrigerators, coffins and sacks, the terror of feeling an unseen gun held to his chest or back, and the love that he felt for his sometime cellmate Brian Keenan. The two men of opposing temperaments, thrown together by forces of evil, were able in time to confide their fears and anxieties to one another and to have heated discussions without the need to score points.

Each was a foil to the other. "Choose joy", McCarthy would say to Keenan who was prone to depression, convinced that as an Irishman he was of no value to his captors and should have committed suicide soon after detention. In return, Keenan took McCarthy on mental voyages of discovery, explaining abstract philosophical or political ideas forcing McCarthy to work his mind as never before.

Some other Rainbow is a story of courage, madness, gaiety, hope and fear. Anger, as well, when the two Frenchmen, Jean-Louis Normandin and Roger Augue, were released following allegations of huge cash deals between France and Iran.

Meanwhile, Britain stood firm. "No deals for hostages", screamed the headlines, which sounds right and proper unless you happen to be a victim. And there are victims aplenty. In Iraq, a country of just 17m inhabitants, tens of thousands of hostages have been taken during the last decade. Globally, the figures defy imagination.

Back in London, McCarthy's relatives friends and colleagues went through years of torment. "He's dead, he's dead," sobbed Jill Morrell on hearing of John's disappearance. Later, when it was authenticated that McCarthy was alive, there was only a brief respite before the agony of uncertainty over his whereabouts and well-being set in, and the frightening fear each morning that he might not survive the day.

But Morrell, although a naturally shy person, showed enormous stamina. With others, she set up the Friends of John McCarthy society to keep John in the news.

The final part of the book deals with the complexities of freedom when McCarthy was unable to cope with the bizarre nature of his celebrity status, whilst Morrell felt guilty about making him famous. But if they stay together they will somehow have to come to terms with being thought of as public property that can be spoken to and smiled at wherever they go, for it will be a long time before they can become known simply as that rather nice (nameless) couple who live across the street.

(The author of this review was a prisoner of Saddam Hussein in Iraq for almost a year until mid-1991.)
COPYRIGHT 1993 IC Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Parish, Daphne
Publication:The Middle East
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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