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All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo Hardcover – April 29, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913452
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913455
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,840,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1996 the brutal civil war in Rwanda spilled into neighboring Congo, triggering a conflict that has seethed for 12 long years, claimed more lives than any since WWII and received little acknowledgment or aid from the international community. AP correspondent Mealer spent three years in this shattered land, and his book is a perceptive, empathetic, stomach-twisting presentation of the human condition during chaos. Mealer depicts war and peace as the mighty arms of a hurricane; war hurtles thousands of terrified people into the bush; intermittent peace lures the lost ones home. Individuals and institutions, indigenous and Western alike, are overwhelmed by the confluence of political collapse, economic disintegration, international indifference and a generalized military ineffectiveness that prevents resolution of the conflict on any terms. The vivid vignettes of combat and its aftermath portend a forever war, and the author highlights the impotence of grassroots solutions that render any deliverance ephemeral at best. Mealer's book is a quiet paean to the courage he has witnessed, and its final salute to the many proud people of Congo is as much eulogy as affirmation. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

With vivid prose and compelling emotion, Mealer chronicles the four years he spent covering the fighting and genocide in Congo. In 1996, when fighting in Rwanda spilled into Congo, Mealer came to the troubled nation as a freelance writer with little knowledge of ethnic loyalties, looking for a translator to help him navigate the complexities of conflict. He went on to become Associated Press staff correspondent and recalls the inanity of the fighting, with rebels used as proxies to fight wars that had more to do with looting natural resources than settling ethnic disputes. Mealer offers historic background and vivid descriptions of crumbling postcolonial towns, “cowboy journalists,” crowded marketplaces, and blue-and-white Potemkin villages of UN peacekeepers. He recalls the feared Cobra commander of boy soldiers who held sway by the belief in magic, and the soldiers, dressed in wigs and prom gowns, committing unbelievable atrocities. He also reports his own “creeping emotional atrophy” as he is repulsed and then spellbound by the violence and by the courageous people who struggled to make sense of the fighting. --Vanessa Bush

More About the Author

Bryan Mealer is the author of Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town, and the New York Times bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which he wrote with William Kamkwamba. He is also the author of All Things Must Fight to Live, which chronicled his years covering the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a reporter for the Associated Press and Harper's. His work has appeared in the anthology Best American Travel Writing and was chosen for an Overseas Press Club Award Citation. He and his family live in Austin, Texas.

Customer Reviews

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I read this book in May and still find myself haunted by it.
Jose Klein
He is more adept at transporting the reader to his eyeballs' perspective than any author I've come across.
Chris M. White
While Mealer writes about the bloody atrocities he witnessed, the real story he tells is about himself.
David Donelson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Berend on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bryan Mealer brought to life a place that, sadly, most of us know little or care even less about. He takes far off characters in a far off war and gives them an easy familiarity. This book is not for the faint of heart--the war in Congo has killed millions through combat and disease, and Mealer does not shy away from its most brutal details. And yet, he does not revel in them either, as so many war correspondents haphazardly do. He simply writes what he sees. And what he sees is pretty amazing stuff. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Donelson on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bryan Mealer has penned a brutal memoir of his three years as a reporter in the Congo, three years when teenage gunboys roamed the countryside and city streets, when UN peacekeeping forces faced mystical leaders operating from jungle mountaintops, when rebel militias and government forces alike pillaged their own nation. It was a horrible time in the history of a country that has seen little else for the last hundred years.

While Mealer writes about the bloody atrocities he witnessed, the real story he tells is about himself. He's drawn back to the Congo three times, apparently addicted to the extreme discomfort and random violence he endures. His travels cover nearly the entire country from the capital of Kinshasa to the mineral-rich southern provinces to the guerilla-infested eastern region where an alphabet-soup of militias, foreign armies, and UN forces fight a never-ending war of terror, rape, and mutilation. He rides a newly-reconstructed rail line and even follows Conrad's trail up the Congo River via barge. At one point, he and his adventure-junkie buddies take off through the jungle on bicycles.

While Mealer tells us the names and stories of many Congolese he meets along the way, he never really gives much insight into them as anything other than victims. He says as much when he reflects on his bicycle journey:

"...once in the jungle, my own basic needs and level of comfort had stood in the way of learning anything. I didn't even know my riders' last names or anything about their families. I'd simply been too exhausted and hungry to care. It wasn't my proudest moment, and even now, those last days on the trail leave a sting of regret.
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57 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Katherine C. Garrett on November 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bryan Mealer has attempted to do the impossible: represent the suffering of a nation in the midst of war and for that I give him credit. However, as a White, Ameican middle class woman who lived in Eastern Congo in 2005-06, I find much of his book to be deeply problematic. This is not a historic account of the war; nor is it an attmept to unpack and examine the myriad factors that instigated the conflict and continue to cause unrest even now; rather, it seems to be one man's biased and often aggrandized account of his willingness to "risk his life" to bring us a litany of disconnected stories from "the heart of darkness." As a book, it is little more than a re-construction of Europeans as noble and technologcally-advanced and Congolese as savage and backward. This is an extremely dangerous myth to perpetuate via mainstream American media, a medium already saturated in representations of Africans as starving, disease-ridden and hopelessly corrupt. While the horror of the war is certainly a reality, Mealer ignores the complex political underpinnings which, if exposed in depth, would serve as a scathing indictment of countless Western governments, including our own. Gerard Prunier's seminal text on the Rwandan genocide is an example of what good war reporting can be. This book, on the other hand,is a sad reminder that the war in Congo DOES deserve press coverage. Just not the kind delivered here.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sharron Autry on June 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had to put the book down several times because I felt sick. Bryan's writing was so real that I felt every terrifying and treacherous moment along the way. Just when a dangerous jouney ended, another began. I am so overwhelmed with what Bryan experienced in the Congo. I know him personally as well as his family, and I can't imagine what they all went through at their own levels.
I applaud Bryan Mealer for the excellent portrayal of a dire situation. I admire his wife, Ann Marie, and family for living through all of the reports, emails and contacts from Bryan throughout his entire journey.
BRAVO, Bryan, for the intensity, honesty, and real depiction of the situation in the Congo that we should all be aware of and concerned about.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Paluck on June 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this book for many reasons--Mealer's lyrical, colorful prose, insight into some of the most magnificent and heartbreaking events and places in the DRC, and finally, for a first hand account of how, why, and when news reaches us out of Africa. I'll recommend this book to my colleagues who study Congo, but also to family members who would like a window into this fiercely captivating and complicated place.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Risa Haynes on May 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been reading articles and stories by Bryan Mealer for several years. In the early years, Bryan wrote some hilarious and interesting articles about bizarre subjects like the west Texas Rattlesnake Round-up. I really enjoyed his voice and continued to read his articles in Harper's and Esquire. I was thrilled to see he had written a book, and after reading All Things Must Fight to Live, I realize I owe a debt of gratitude to Bryan for sacrificing his own naivetee to bring this eloquent, gritty and painfully honest account of the horrors and beauty to me so that I may become less myopic. In my personal quest to uncover and grasp that common thread that binds us all, Bryan's stories give me something solid to hold onto. It is a must read for anyone seeking to broaden their view of the world and to understand conflicts and wars that are more than soundbites.
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