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An award-winning journalist’s searing, extraordinary account of being kidnapped and tortured in Syria by al Qaeda for two years—a revelatory memoir about war, human nature, and endurance. In 2012, American journalist Theo Padnos, fluent in Arabic, Russian, German, and French, traveled to a Turkish border town to write and report on the Syrian civil war. One afternoon in Oct An award-winning journalist’s searing, extraordinary account of being kidnapped and tortured in Syria by al Qaeda for two years—a revelatory memoir about war, human nature, and endurance. In 2012, American journalist Theo Padnos, fluent in Arabic, Russian, German, and French, traveled to a Turkish border town to write and report on the Syrian civil war. One afternoon in October, while walking through an olive grove, he met three young Syrians—who turned out to be al Qaeda operatives—and they captured him and kept him prisoner for nearly two years. On his first day, in the first of many prisons, Padnos was given a blindfold—a grime-stained scrap of fabric—that was his only possession throughout his horrific ordeal. Now, in Blindfold, Padnos recounts his time in captivity in Syria, where he was frequently tortured at the hands of the al Qaeda affiliate, Jebhat al Nusra. We learn not only about Padnos’s harrowing experience, but we also get a firsthand account of life in a Syrian village, the nature of Islamic prisons, how captors interrogate someone suspected of being CIA, the ways that Islamic fighters shift identities and drift back and forth through the veil of Western civilization, and much more. No other journalist has lived among terrorists for as long as Theo has—and survived. As a resident of thirteen separate prisons in every part of rebel-occupied Syria, Theo witnessed a society adrift amid a steady stream of bombings, executions, torture, prayer, fasting, and exhibitions, all staged by the terrorists. Living within this tide of violence changed not only his personal identity but also profoundly altered his understanding of how to live. Offering fascinating, unprecedented insight into the state of Syria today, Blindfold is an astonishing portrait of courage that combines the emotional power of a captive’s memoir with a journalist’s account of a culture and a nation in conflict that is as urgent and important as ever.


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An award-winning journalist’s searing, extraordinary account of being kidnapped and tortured in Syria by al Qaeda for two years—a revelatory memoir about war, human nature, and endurance. In 2012, American journalist Theo Padnos, fluent in Arabic, Russian, German, and French, traveled to a Turkish border town to write and report on the Syrian civil war. One afternoon in Oct An award-winning journalist’s searing, extraordinary account of being kidnapped and tortured in Syria by al Qaeda for two years—a revelatory memoir about war, human nature, and endurance. In 2012, American journalist Theo Padnos, fluent in Arabic, Russian, German, and French, traveled to a Turkish border town to write and report on the Syrian civil war. One afternoon in October, while walking through an olive grove, he met three young Syrians—who turned out to be al Qaeda operatives—and they captured him and kept him prisoner for nearly two years. On his first day, in the first of many prisons, Padnos was given a blindfold—a grime-stained scrap of fabric—that was his only possession throughout his horrific ordeal. Now, in Blindfold, Padnos recounts his time in captivity in Syria, where he was frequently tortured at the hands of the al Qaeda affiliate, Jebhat al Nusra. We learn not only about Padnos’s harrowing experience, but we also get a firsthand account of life in a Syrian village, the nature of Islamic prisons, how captors interrogate someone suspected of being CIA, the ways that Islamic fighters shift identities and drift back and forth through the veil of Western civilization, and much more. No other journalist has lived among terrorists for as long as Theo has—and survived. As a resident of thirteen separate prisons in every part of rebel-occupied Syria, Theo witnessed a society adrift amid a steady stream of bombings, executions, torture, prayer, fasting, and exhibitions, all staged by the terrorists. Living within this tide of violence changed not only his personal identity but also profoundly altered his understanding of how to live. Offering fascinating, unprecedented insight into the state of Syria today, Blindfold is an astonishing portrait of courage that combines the emotional power of a captive’s memoir with a journalist’s account of a culture and a nation in conflict that is as urgent and important as ever.

30 review for Blindfold: A Memoir of Capture, Torture, and Enlightenment

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris Riley

    By the time I was 50 pages in I just wasn’t buying what was sold to me, except that he was actually kidnapped, so I decided to watch some interviews on YouTube and do a little research on this guy. First off, he is NOT AN AWARD WINNING journalist. He just won some award for being the most interesting guy in a documentary, which considering the fact that one of the other nominees was IGGY POP, means that it was NOT an award for journalism, which is false advertising and just pathetic, which is wh By the time I was 50 pages in I just wasn’t buying what was sold to me, except that he was actually kidnapped, so I decided to watch some interviews on YouTube and do a little research on this guy. First off, he is NOT AN AWARD WINNING journalist. He just won some award for being the most interesting guy in a documentary, which considering the fact that one of the other nominees was IGGY POP, means that it was NOT an award for journalism, which is false advertising and just pathetic, which is why I’m giving him 2 stars, instead of one. The second star is out of pity. I bought this book hoping to learn something about Al Qaeda, but the only thing I learned is that Amazon lets you return Kindle purchases within 7 days.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Kiley | memoirs.of.a.booknerd

    Blindfold by Theo Padnos chronicles the real-life story of American journalist, Theo Padnos, who was kidnapped and tortured by al Qaeda affiliate Jebhat al Nusra for two years before being set free. Given the graphic nature of stories such as these (⚠️TW: torture, violence, terrorism) I’m careful in those I pick up, wanting to make sure it will add something to my understanding of the conflict rather than being a gratuitous read, and this book does offer a unique perspective to others I’ve read. Blindfold by Theo Padnos chronicles the real-life story of American journalist, Theo Padnos, who was kidnapped and tortured by al Qaeda affiliate Jebhat al Nusra for two years before being set free. Given the graphic nature of stories such as these (⚠️TW: torture, violence, terrorism) I’m careful in those I pick up, wanting to make sure it will add something to my understanding of the conflict rather than being a gratuitous read, and this book does offer a unique perspective to others I’ve read. Theo’s account combines his personal experience with political background on the conflict itself and is unique in that it does shed some light into the mindset of his captors and how they come to be embroiled in this cycle of terrorism. I’ve seen some reviews criticize this empathy, but I would say it came across as more of a balanced account of the reality of this conflict told with a journalist’s eye. That being said, the back and forth between personal experience and political knowledge did slow the pace of the book down considerably, which made it harder to get through. Similarly, although recounting the sequence of events he endured, Theo does not share much of his own emotional experience of the ordeal. I fully recognize that Theo does not owe this to anyone – it is his lived experience and this trauma is his to unpack in whatever way is comfortable for him – but when reading a memoir, one expects an inside look in to the experience and with this story missing much of that piece, it felt very factual and detached which again contributed to it being a bit harder to get through. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a novel perspective of this conflict and ordeals such as these, but would recommend tempering your expectation in terms of the amount of personal disclosure you’re expecting from this memoir. Thank you @simonschusterca @scribnerbooks for my #gifted copy!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    "My feeling that I was about to die allowed me to see. In a prison cell, at the very end of your allotment of days, you are in a little eagle's nest, a thousand feet above the surface of the earth. You can see everything. Why do the living struggle and sweat, you wonder, when all they really need to do is to live?" "My theory of travel, which I had devloped in libraries in America during graduate school, was that travel allowed you to slip into lives you might have lived but hadn't yet had the ti "My feeling that I was about to die allowed me to see. In a prison cell, at the very end of your allotment of days, you are in a little eagle's nest, a thousand feet above the surface of the earth. You can see everything. Why do the living struggle and sweat, you wonder, when all they really need to do is to live?" "My theory of travel, which I had devloped in libraries in America during graduate school, was that travel allowed you to slip into lives you might have lived but hadn't yet had the time. TO give your old life the slip, you had to learn to east as foreigners ate, to speak the languages they spoke, and to pray as they prayed. The more totally you gave yourself to them, the further you could see into the lives of others." "It seems to me now that, as the billion dollars in covert aid the Obama adminstration approved for the Syrian resistance in the spring of the 2013 began to flood into Syria, some of the rebel commanders, feeling themselves buoyed by newfound alliances, lost interest in making deals with the Syrian government. Perhaps the guns that began to tumble into the rebel's hands then had the effect of bringing out their will to kill. Perhaps they hadn't been much interested in making a deal in the first place. Now new, richer deals beckoned on the horizon." "If a destabilizing power were to establish itself here at home, I thought, my fellow citizens would live through a moment of shock, as I had done in Syria. But they were a robust lot. They were much stronger than they knew. In the fullness of time, they would gather themselves together. They would pitch themselves into the fray. Probably, they would come through it all with an enhanced appreciation of life. Had not some such awakening of the spirit occured to me after my ordeal in Syria?"

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liz Davidson

    Parts of this book were fascinating. Padnos has insights about participants in extremist groups in Syria that ring very true to me. I think he is also very honest about the range of emotions he experienced during his confinement, including a seemingly improbable fondness for his captors that alternates with incredible rage. At times, though, this book is incredibly frustrating. Padnos is very honest about the mistakes that led to his abduction, but he goes about it slowly, and waiting for the in Parts of this book were fascinating. Padnos has insights about participants in extremist groups in Syria that ring very true to me. I think he is also very honest about the range of emotions he experienced during his confinement, including a seemingly improbable fondness for his captors that alternates with incredible rage. At times, though, this book is incredibly frustrating. Padnos is very honest about the mistakes that led to his abduction, but he goes about it slowly, and waiting for the inevitable to happen is agonizing—especially because some of the warning signs he describes are very clear. I almost quit the book before getting to any actually interesting insights. Other parts are a bit repetitive, although I suppose two years of confinement was very repetitive. I know that he and Matt Schrier have differing accounts of their time as cellmates (I might need to look at Schrier's account next). Overall, this is a worthwhile read if you can stomach descriptions of torture.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cathleen

    A memoir of an American man’s imprisonment in Syria, which is quite detached and unemotional in spite of or because of the difficulties of his situation. His matter-of-fact tone, his command of the Arabic language, and his knowledge of the political situation enabled him to share insights that are interesting; however, this memoir seems to be missing his personal experience in a large way. How much a traumatized person wants to reveal about his darkest struggles is absolutely a personal decision A memoir of an American man’s imprisonment in Syria, which is quite detached and unemotional in spite of or because of the difficulties of his situation. His matter-of-fact tone, his command of the Arabic language, and his knowledge of the political situation enabled him to share insights that are interesting; however, this memoir seems to be missing his personal experience in a large way. How much a traumatized person wants to reveal about his darkest struggles is absolutely a personal decision, yet why write a memoir if you are not willing to share? His inclusion of a violent piece of fiction he was writing during the last six months of his captivity seemed a strange addendum and for me, did little to advance the story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla

    I found this book very difficult to read, however, unable to put it down because of my association with soldiers with whom I worked in the US ARMY. It is only a miracle that Mr. Padnos, in my opinion, survived in the most difficult and inhumane conditions anyone should suffer. It has its surprises and anticipations but filled with information that I am happy to see someone other than a military member clearly release what goes on in their every day life. Thank you, Sir, for a well-written, true I found this book very difficult to read, however, unable to put it down because of my association with soldiers with whom I worked in the US ARMY. It is only a miracle that Mr. Padnos, in my opinion, survived in the most difficult and inhumane conditions anyone should suffer. It has its surprises and anticipations but filled with information that I am happy to see someone other than a military member clearly release what goes on in their every day life. Thank you, Sir, for a well-written, true and informative book of horror, and mostly your ability to have the strength to survive.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Milena Frank

    Some of the author's descriptions of his ordeals are deeply moving. But there is a nervous, almost neurotic quality to the book's constant firings of personal and political musings. Many reflections are very repetitive, especially his depictions of himself as a 'dumb American' in the first part of the book. I also missed real depth on his re-entry into his old world and reunification with his mother. Had it not been for a human interest in his captivity and release, I would have struggled to get Some of the author's descriptions of his ordeals are deeply moving. But there is a nervous, almost neurotic quality to the book's constant firings of personal and political musings. Many reflections are very repetitive, especially his depictions of himself as a 'dumb American' in the first part of the book. I also missed real depth on his re-entry into his old world and reunification with his mother. Had it not been for a human interest in his captivity and release, I would have struggled to get through this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Bashford

    The author spends most of the book complaining that the major news outlets wouldn't hire him...after reading this, it's not entirely hard to understand why. It's not bad if you have an existing understanding of the Syrian conflict, but requires a fair amount of external research otherwise. My main complaint was the pacing - after spending a third of the book describing how he got kidnapped, he spent TWO PAGES describing how he was released and came home. The end. It was fairly bizarre. The author spends most of the book complaining that the major news outlets wouldn't hire him...after reading this, it's not entirely hard to understand why. It's not bad if you have an existing understanding of the Syrian conflict, but requires a fair amount of external research otherwise. My main complaint was the pacing - after spending a third of the book describing how he got kidnapped, he spent TWO PAGES describing how he was released and came home. The end. It was fairly bizarre.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Reece Willis

    A well written and thoroughly descriptive account of an extremely harrowing ordeal. Theo Padnos has not only produced an excellent insight into what it was like from a psychological perspective, but also provides the reader with expert knowledge of his surroundings and the political situations that brought him to the point of capture. Reading Blindfold will make you feel like you're by his side every step of the way. A well written and thoroughly descriptive account of an extremely harrowing ordeal. Theo Padnos has not only produced an excellent insight into what it was like from a psychological perspective, but also provides the reader with expert knowledge of his surroundings and the political situations that brought him to the point of capture. Reading Blindfold will make you feel like you're by his side every step of the way.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Judy Santos

    Reading a good story like this one, I suggest you join NovelStar’s writing competition this April. If you are interested kindly check this link https://www.facebook.com/104455574751... for the mechanics of the writing contest this April and also, I am sharing your book in Facebook to help reach readers. Thank you Reading a good story like this one, I suggest you join NovelStar’s writing competition this April. If you are interested kindly check this link https://www.facebook.com/104455574751... for the mechanics of the writing contest this April and also, I am sharing your book in Facebook to help reach readers. Thank you

  11. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    A rather unbelievable memoir of the capture, imprisonment, torture, and eventual release of an American journalist in Syria. it is beyond comprehension how Padnos could have remained so calm - almost serene - in the midst of the chaos that his life became for two years. I felt like I was missing the anger and disillusionment that surely must have been present.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Caroline David

    Wow, Theo Padnos shares his very personal story as a hostage in Syria. I was completely shocked by how he was captured and who did the capturing. His ability to tell this story, which is no doubt very hard to share, is unrivaled and I loved hearing from him.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristy Hurst

    Padnos experienced things most of us cannot even imagine. His resilience brought him through. This memoir gives you a peek inside what happened to him in Syria and is incredibly well written. It was an honor to read an advance uncorrected copy that I won in a giveaway on Goodreads.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    A hard to read book because of it's harrowing and frightening content but worth the read even with the graphic content. How can a humans be so evil to capture and torture? I will never understand. I am amazed that the Mr. Padnos could write his story but I am glad. A hard to read book because of it's harrowing and frightening content but worth the read even with the graphic content. How can a humans be so evil to capture and torture? I will never understand. I am amazed that the Mr. Padnos could write his story but I am glad.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Stenquist

    A riveting book of capture, survival and overcoming that is a must read. Pick up a copy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joan Mitchell

    An eye opening account of the civil war in Syria and a revealing of the religious feelings that fuel the combatants hatred of those with different beliefs and outlooks.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sally Bruggeman

    Couldn’t put it down! What a unique and interesting story! I loved the writing and I learned a lot. Thanks for such a good read!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sue

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cait (acaffeinatedbookworm)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Quintus

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael Richter

  23. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis Jones

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robin

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matti Paasio

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katrina Church

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gary

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

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