One day in the early 1990s, while covering the famine in Somalia for Reuters, Aidan Hartley found himself watching a television soundman who was on his knees, poking his furry microphone boom into the face of an old man lying stretched out on the earth. The man, whose eyes were closed, lay absolutely silent until, with a faint exhalation of breath, he died. The soundman waited a few seconds, switched off his microphone, clambered to his feet, and said briskly: 'I've been wanting to do that. I've captured the sound of death on tape.'
The Zanzibar Chest, Hartley's memoir of life as a foreign correspondent, is full of stories of the crassness of the international world in its now daily dealings with Africa's droughts, emergencies and civil wars; but he tells them well, with sympathy and carefully expressed revulsion, often as appalled by his