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Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa Paperback – March 27, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610391071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391078
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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)"

About the Author

Jason Stearns has been working on the conflict in the Congo for the past decade, most recently as the head of a special United Nations panel investigating Congolese rebel groups. He worked for the United Nations peacekeeping operation, and as a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group. He is currently completing a PhD at Yale University.

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.

Customer Reviews

This is the best book on the history of great war in Congo .
Udit Jain
This is a very well written book that does a good job of navigating the reader through the very complex politics of the Congo, and the relationship with Rwanda.
pbtx
If you are a student of Africa history and politics, this book has to be on your read list.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Didaskalex VINE VOICE on April 4, 2011
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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88 of 108 people found the following review helpful By J. Scott Shipman on 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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. Shubinsky on July 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you ever wondered what was going on in the congo, this is your chance to finally understand why it is such a protracted and bloody conlict.
clearely written and based on real people, this book is a must for those who care about africa.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By ed rackley on 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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