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The Samuel Johnson Prize 2007

The Samuel Johnson Prize 2007

The Winner

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone (Bloomsbury)

As the former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran escorts the reader into the Green Zone - a bubble of surreal Americana. Its a walled-off enclave of towering plants, posh villas, and sparkling swimming pools that remains the headquarters for the American occupation of Iraq. Cut off from wartime realities, the monumental task of reconstructing a devastated nation competes with the more sybaritic distractions of life in this Little-America on the Tigris. Chandrasekaran describes the bars stocked with cold beer, a disco where women dance in hot pants, a cinema that screens shoot-’em-up films, the all-you-could-eat buffet piled high with pork, a shopping mall that sells porn, a car park filled with shiny new SUVs, and a dry-cleaning service. Most Iraqis are barred from entering the Emerald City for fear they would blow it up. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and internal documents, Chandrasekaran brings to light a remarkable array of insights into the nature of the American occupation.

Winning Author

Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Rajiv Chandrasekaran is an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post. He heads The Post's Continuous News department, which reports and edits breaking news stories for, and he helps to shape the newspaper’s overall multimedia strategy. From April 2003 to October 2004, he was The Post's bureau chief in Baghdad, where he was responsible for covering the American occupation of Iraq and supervising a team of Post correspondents. He lived in Baghdad for six months before the war, reporting on the United Nations weapons-inspections process and the build-up to the conflict. He now lives in Washington DC.