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Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa [Kindle Edition]

Jason Stearns
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

At the heart of Africa is Congo, a country the size of Western Europe, bordering nine other nations, that since 1996 has been wracked by a brutal and unstaunchable war in which millions have died. And yet, despite its epic proportions, it has received little sustained media attention.

In this deeply reported book, Jason Stearns vividly tells the story of this misunderstood conflict through the experiences of those who engineered and perpetrated it. He depicts village pastors who survived massacres, the child soldier assassin of President Kabila, a female Hutu activist who relives the hunting and methodical extermination of fellow refugees, and key architects of the war that became as great a disaster as--and was a direct consequence of--the genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Through their stories, he tries to understand why such mass violence made sense, and why stability has been so elusive.

Through their voices, and an astonishing wealth of knowledge and research, Stearns chronicles the political, social, and moral decay of the Congolese State.



Editorial Reviews

Review

""Dancing in the Glory of Monsters" is riveting and certain to become essential reading for anyone looking to understand Central Africa." --The Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2001

"The best account [of the war] so far: more serious than several recent macho-war-correspondent travelogues, and more lucid and accessible than its nearest competitor." --Adam Hochschild, The New York Times, April 1, 2011

Kirkus, February 15, 2011
“Impressively controlled account of the devastating Congo war…The book’s greatest strength is the eyewitness dialogue; Stearns discusses his encounters with everyone from major military figures to residents of remote villages (he was occasionally suspected of being a CIA spy)…An important examination of a social disaster that seems both politically complex and cruelly senseless.”

Booklist
“Covering the devastating effects of these deadly contests on the Congolese infrastructure, Congolese institutions, and people’s lives, Stearns informatively reports on affairs for students of African politics.”
 
New York Times Book Review, April 3, 2011
“The best account [of the conflict in the Congo] so far; more serious than several recent macho-war-correspondent travelogues and more lucid and accessible than its nearest competitor…The task facing anyone who tires to tell this whole story is formidable, but Stearns by and large rises to it. He has lived in the country, and has done a raft of interviews with people who witnessed what happened before he got there…his picture is clear, made painfully real by a series of close-up portraits.”

Wall Street Journal
, March 2, 2011
“He is a cracking writer, with a wry sense of understatement…Mr. Stearns has spoken to everyone—villagers, child soldiers, Mobutu's commanders, Kabila's ministers, Rwandan intelligence officers. In these conversations he found gold, bringing clarity—and humanity—to a place that usually seems inexplicable and barbaric. ‘Dancing in the Glory of Monsters’ is riveting and certain to become essential reading for anyone looking to understand Central Africa.” 
 
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2011
“Stearns is more concerned with the perceptions, motivations, an actions of an eclectic mix of actors in the conflict—from a Tutsi warlord who engaged in massive human rights violations to a Hutu activist turned refugee living in the camps and forests of eastern Congo.  He tells their stories with a judicious mix of empathy and distance, linking them to a broader narrative of a two-decade-long conflict that has involved a dozen countries and claimed six million victims.”
 
Washington Post, April 24, 2011
“Enter Jason Stearns. One of Congo’s most intrepid observers, he describes the war from the point of view of its perpetrators. He has tracked down and interviewed a rogue’s gallery of them. The resulting book, “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters,” is a tour de force, though not for the squeamish."
 
Economist, April 28, 2011
“[Stearns] is probably the most widely travelled and the most meticulous and empathetic observer of the war there. This is a serious book about the social and political forces behind one of the most violent clashes of modern times—as well as a damn good read.”
 
Global Post, April 26, 2011
“Stearns is a leading authority on the region, having lived there for years working for the United Nations and the International Crisis Group. He has built up a superb knowledge of Congo and how it articulates with its neighbours, particularly Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. He frequently imparts his understanding to journalists far less well-informed than he. And now he has produced a book where he makes the whole convoluted and confusing war in Congo a little more comprehensible, which is quite a feat. If you want to understand modern Congo then Stearns’ book should be required reading.”
 
Telegraph, May 13, 2011
“A brave and accessible take on the leviathan at the heart of so many of Africa’s problems… Stearns’s eye for detail, culled from countless interviews, brings this book alive… I once wrote that the Congo suffers from ‘a lack of institutional memory’, meaning that its atrocities well so inexorably that nobody bothers to keep an account of them. Stearns’s book goes a long way to putting that right.”

The Spectator,
May 8, 2011
“(t)his courageous book is a plea for more nuanced understanding and the silencing of the analysis-free ‘the horror, the horror’ exclamation that Congo still routinely wrings from Western lips.” 

Sunday Times, May 1, 2011
“Stearns has done a fine job of amassing vast amounts (of material), much of it based directly on interviews with the participants and victims, to bring to light details of a scandalously under-reported war… (T)his book succeeds in providing a vivid chronicles of this rolling conflict involving 20 rival rebel groups.

The Shepherd Express
“a vivid chronicle of the carnage that helps illuminate a tragedy too enormous to comprehend”
 
Financial Times, June, 24, 2011
“A serious, admirably balanced account of the crisis and the political and social forces behind it, providing vivid portraits of both victims and perpetrators and eyewitness accounts of the main events… perhaps the most accessible, meticulously researched and comprehensive overview of the Congo crisis yet.”

Economist
Book of the Year, “(a) serious account of the social and political forces behind one of the most violent clashes of modern times… by one of its most meticulous and empathetic observers.”

Times Literary Supplement
“(Dancing in the Glory of Monsters) is both readable and humane. (Jason Stearns) offers an effective narrative of the convoluted regional politics of a conflict that saw the rapid emergence of an alliance of neighbouring governments which gave their support to the rebel army recruited from DRC’s Tutsi population… While Stearns works hard to make his readers understand the violence, it is clear that he is both impassioned and outraged by this story of human suffering… This intelligent and moving book may help us understand some of the people of the Congo better, as humans, tragically liable to do evil rather than as monsters; but unsurprisingly, it provides no clear answer to intractable questions about the scope of international intervention.”

Midwest Book Review
“Any collection strong in African history and culture—as well as many a military collection—will find this a ‘must’”

Review

"Jason Stearns is probably better qualified and better able than any man alive to write about Congo. This is history felt on the body, and told from the heart." (JOHN LE CARRE) "(Dancing in the Glory of Monsters is) a brave and accessible take on the leviathan at the heart of so many of Africa's problems... Stearns's eye for detail, culled from countless interviews, brings this book alive... I once wrote that the Congo suffers from 'a lack of institutional memory', meaning that its atrocities well so inexorably that nobody bothers to keep an account of them. Stearns's book goes a long way to putting that right." (DAILY TELEGRAPH) "(t)his courageous book is a plea for more nuanced understanding and the silencing of the analysis-free 'the horror, the horror' exclamation that Congo still routinely wrings from Western lips." (MICHAELA WRONG, SPECTATOR) "[Stearns] is probably the most widely travelled and the most meticulous and empathetic observer of the war there. This is a serious book about the social and political forces behind one of the most violent clashes of modern times - as well as a damn good read." (THE ECONOMIST) "Stearns has done a fine job of amassing vast amounts (of material), much of it based directly on interviews with the participants and victims, to bring to light details of a scandalously under-reported war... (T)his book succeeds in providing a vivid chronicles of this rolling conflict involving 20 rival rebel groups." (SUNDAY TIMES) "(Dancing in the Glory of Monsters) is one of the most gripping and comprehensive accounts of this human tragedy yet written... Stearns makes a convincing case that greater international understanding is a crucial first step - and if he's right then this book could be a major contribution." (NEW HUMANIST)"

Product Details

  • File Size: 1211 KB
  • Print Length: 402 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1586489291
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0076M4VDC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,067 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
*****
"How do you cover a war that involves at least 20 different rebel groups and the armies of nine countries, yet does not seem to have a clear cause or objective?" Jason K. Stearns

The Congo, a vast country as big as Western Europe, wildly rich in natural resources, and valuable minerals as diamonds and uranium, having common borders with nine central African nations, has received little sustained media coverage, even during its political crisis striving for democracy, after independence, in 1960. I was on a consulting job in Zambia, and drove to Ndola to meet a friend who taught at the university of Lubumbashi, the park was so peaceful, and the visitors were friendly. In two decades, after its economic collapse in 1996, the (Dem. Rep.) Congo was destructed by an annihilating war, in which millions lost their life in a deliberate genocide. The brutal war has left hundreds of thousands of women gang-raped and left millions of war-­related disabilities, and more than three millions were forced to flee their villages. Jason Stearns, who worked for the United Nations in Congo, tells the tragic story of chaos and suffering in, "Dancing in the Glory of Monsters," explaining the tragedy of the Great War of Africa, and the destruction of the Congo, where almost all state institutions of public services crumbled. The author describes the inhumane fights, "like layers of an onion, the Congo war contains wars within wars."

"Dancing in the Glory of Monsters" is the best account so far: more serious than several recent macho-war-correspondent travelogues, and more lucid and accessible than its nearest competitor,.." wrote Adam Hochschild in the N Y Times.
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91 of 111 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Monsters, indeed. May 18, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Several thoughts come to mind when reflecting on Jason K. Stearns' epic Dancing In The Glory of Monsters, The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, but "dancing" doesn't figure into any of those thoughts, and monsters are writ large, center stage. And make no mistake; we're talking fiendishly horrific monsters, almost inhuman, as if drawn from a dictionary definition: "Anything horrible from...wickedness, cruelty or commission of extraordinary or horrible crimes; a vile creature..." So the reader should be advised, some of the stories are very disturbing.

Indeed, Mr. Stearns paints a gut-wrenching portrait of a nation and region ravaged by colonial meddling, venal and brutish politician/military leaders, and centuries old ethic strife all culminating in "many wars in one" beginning in 1996 in Congo (the former Zaire) and including active participation of neighbors Rwanda and Uganda just to name a couple. In terms of geography, Congo straddles the equator and is the size of Western Europe, or slightly less than one fourth the size of the United States. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the literacy rate is 67% and the mortality rate a surprisingly "high" 54 years for men, and 57 for women; given the slaughter since 1996, my guess would have been a much lower number.

The Congo Wars were largely a by-product of the epic 1994 genocide in Rwanda where in the space of 100 days an estimated 800,000 Rwandans (primarily Tutsis and moderate Hutus) were killed. The killing was "organized by the elite but executed by people." Stearns says, "...between 175,000 and 210,000 people took part in the butchery, using machetes, nail-studded clubs, hoes, and axes." The killing was done in public and almost no one was untouched either as "a perpetrator, a victim or witness.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Write about Congo July 28, 2011
Format:Hardcover
How best to make sense of Congo's enduring crisis, a tale of daunting political complexity and extraordinary cruelty? Many writers have tried, for no other African country captivates the western literary imagination as much as Congo. This fascination long precedes Joseph Conrad, who indelibly described King Leopold's Congo Free State over a century ago. But faithful subjects do not good art make, and most western writing on Congo is unreadable or, at best, unbearable.

The sheer complexity of Congo's dramatic history is one contributing factor behind all the dreadful writing. Many an author sacrifices compelling narrative for rigorous scholarship, resulting in a turgid swamp of acronyms for all the armed groups, the Security Council Resolutions and the doomed peace deals. Epic chronicles like Africa's World War (Gérard Prunier) may be valuable to scholars but are so microscopically detailed as to be opaque to non-specialists.

Adventure writing, the other main genre of Congo literature, is equally abundant and can carry a plot, but the stories glorify the exploits of the author and ignore the Congolese. "Watch me as I commune with gentle pygmies, wrestle crocodiles on the great Congo River, escape beheading by a throng of stoned child soldiers"-- setting the bar for unbearable reading. Common to both schools is the absence of Congolese voice; for both, Congo is a neutral, muted stage for the author's performance (scholarship, "survival"). Faced with such output, one thinks, the trampling of Congo just goes on and on.
Jason Stearns shares this lament. A recognized scholar and field analyst with years of human rights reporting from the country's most remote zones of conflict , he tackles Congo's complexity head-on, unpeeling the onion of its myriad wars within wars.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book
This book makes a valiant attempt to make a very complex set of circumstances understandable and interesting. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Timothy W. Cox
5.0 out of 5 stars Urgent reading
Excellent and required reading on an urgent subject.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Dancing in the Glory of Monsters
This is a very well-researched and well-written account of the complex Congo wars. Stearns clearly knows the country well and marshals interviews with many important players to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kevin Pallister
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very compelling
Published 2 months ago by bookah
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Detailed
This book presents a little known horror story that ought to be well known, but it is so detailed, I wasn't able to finish it.
Published 3 months ago by J. Foster
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best one-volume account of what has happened in the Congo
Probably the best one-volume account of what has happened in the Congo. There are portions where some of the dozens of factions are only lightly dealt with but, on the whole, the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by S. M.Silver
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great
Published 3 months ago by cyndipeck
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Perfect depiction of the wars.
Published 4 months ago by Kirubahari Murugaiah
3.0 out of 5 stars not much
I was expecting more. This book just chronicles the political changes and not much of the cultural tribal insecurities which lead to much of the violence. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael Redding
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
difficult to read un less you know Africa very well.
Published 5 months ago by Kazza
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More About the Author

Jason Stearns has been working on the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2001. He has worked for Héritiers de la Justice, the United Nations peacekeeping mission and as a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group. In 2008, he led a United Nations investigation on conflict in the east of the country. He is currently managing a research project for the Rift Valley Institute on Congolese armed groups, the Usalama Project.

His articles and opinion pieces have appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Africa Confidential, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. He blogs at congosiasa.blogspot.com.

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