I don’t think I’ve done a book review before and I’m not sure if I can do it ‘right’ so I’ve decided to start with an app.
“Why, Mister Why?” was a book created by Geert Van Kestern that covered his time as a photojournalist in Iraq between 2003 and 2004. America had bombarded Iraq with shock and awe then entered it’s borders with its allies to drive out Saddam’s regime.
The original book was published in 2004 and has long since been out of print, I’ve only seen pictures of the book here and there but he, or the publishers, did something smart – they made a digital version. Instead of making an eBook they decided to make an interactive app available to buy in the iTunes store. At time of writing the app was £7.99 or $9.99 in the US and totals up at a respectable 383MB download.
Note: I’m including screen shots from the app without permission of the author(s) so this review might be pulled down for copyright infringement despite being used as a review and I understand that risk.
I’ve been fascinated with the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts for years as it’s shocked me into questioning the values of government, ‘big business’ and myself which scared me. I’ve watched many films by Adam Curtis who’s often criticised for over simplifying what is essentially a super-complex and intricate web of political and sociological disasters but the essence of his films is enlightening enough to question your perception.
I remember speeches by western leaders during the Afghanistan conflict claiming they had no intention of going near Iraq but within months the seeds were sown. I felt so angry as I watched the bombs drop live on the news to open what would become a hellish never-ending conflict in Iraq and beyond though Sadam’s regime were no angels either and there lay the problem.
The App is quite simple, each chapter starts with the holding screen, and from there you can either swipe up or down to cycle through the chapters and left or right to go through the chapters (indicated by arrows in the above image). Each chapter is bookended with an introduction in both English and Arabic, each image has a caption button that either describes what is happening in the image or give context to it; the captions are again in both English and Arabic.
The photos are exceptional, Kesteren’s excellent eye for composition is clear to behold but don’t take my word for it, YouTubing book previewer Jörg Colberg gives an honest account of the app below.
I felt that it’s a book that doesn’t revel in the graphic ghoulishness of war but instead tries to lead you inside the everyday mechanics of Iraqi life, touching upon the ethnic complexities of Iraq and the affects of war around it.
I recommend it highly.