A Thousand Suns

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The accomplished French author of the 1985 best seller The City of Joy recapitulates in honeyed prose more than a dozen stories he covered in his long career in journalism. He interviews the bullfighter El Cordobes and retraces Mahatma Gandhi's last moments. Much of the narrative runs to the cloyingly inspirational, and a good deal of it challenges credulity. For example, Caryl Chessman, awaiting execution at San Quentin, is portrayed as an intellectual who speaks in finely wrought sentences as he discourses about crime prevention, citing Albert Camus ("What a writer!"). Oh, what a mess!