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Foreign correspondent Andrew Solomon on ‘Far and Away,’ Gadhafi’s Libya

by Kevin Nance

Andrew Solomon. Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Being a foreign correspondent — slipping in and out of war zones and reporting on international politics and culture, particularly in the developing world — isn’t for everybody, but it suits Andrew Solomon down to the ground.

The prize-winning reporter for The New Yorker, National Public Radio and other news outlets has spent most of his adult life crisscrossing the globe, measuring the temperature in hot spots from Afghanistan and Libya to the Soviet Union and Myanmar. His dispatches and essays from these far-flung corners of the world, along with his depression memoir The Noonday Demon (2001), have won him the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award.

Printers Row caught up with Solomon, 52, for a phone interview from the Caribbean, where he was vacationing with his family before gearing up for the launch of his new collection of essays about his life as a foreign correspondent, Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years. He’ll discuss the book as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival on May 1. Here’s an edited transcript of our chat.

Q: You’ve been everywhere, it seems.

A: I think the essential message I wanted to convey is that in these xenophobic times, when politicians are stoking everyone’s anxiety about threats from abroad, I would argue that engaging with the rest of the world is not only a luxury, in the way that travel is, but actually a moral responsibility. Trying to look at the way in which by opening ourselves to a larger world, we open ourselves to a world that’s actually more inhabitable, and that many of the people we find frightening are in fact not so frightening when you encounter them up close.

(To read the full interview, please visit The Chicago Tribune.)