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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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[A] tour de force, though not for the squeamish.” Washington Post
This is a serious book about the social and political forces behind one of the most violent clashes of modern timesas well as a damn good read.” Economist
[P]erhaps the best account of the most recent conflict in the Congo.” Foreign Policy
A serious, admirably balanced account of the crisis and the political and social forces behind it perhaps the most accessible, meticulously researched, and comprehensive overview of the Congo crisis yet.” Financial Times
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.”-Kirkus
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.”Booklist
He is a cracking writer, with a wry sense of understatement Mr. Stearns has spoken to everyonevillagers, child soldiers, Mobutu's commanders, Kabila's ministers, Rwandan intelligence officers. In these conversations he found gold, bringing clarityand humanityto 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.” -Wall Street Journal
Stearns is more concerned with the perceptions, motivations, an actions of an eclectic mix of actors in the conflictfrom 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.”-Foreign Affairs
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.”-Global Post
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.”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.” -The Spectator,
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
a vivid chronicle of the carnage that helps illuminate a tragedy too enormous to comprehend” -The Shepherd Express
About the Author
More About the Author
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.
Top Customer Reviews
"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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A brilliantly written book on an under-reported and under-examined tragedy. A must read for anybody interested in the past, present and future of DR Congo, both for insiders and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Johannes van de Ven
Great work elaborating on specifics of the Rwanda genocide and aggression of Rwanda against DRC.Published 3 months ago by YBJ
Very informative and very thorough. The author does a very good job of walking you day by day, week by week through the extended conflict.Published 5 months ago by Elvis
A well-researched and readable book on a very troubled area. Jason Stearns has done an incredible job of presenting the brutality and horror of the Congo wars and for once, has... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Windhoek
to be brief it's an exemplary account of the conflicts and history of the CongoPublished 6 months ago by acidtripdxm
An excellent account of the Great African War. Making sense of a seemingly senseless war, and contributing to an understanding of how the different actors and driving factors... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Tahkee
An excellent introduction to the war in the DRC in the wake of the Rwandan Genocide. It could benefit from more maps to help orient the reader, but by and large the author does an... Read morePublished 7 months ago by John
A superb look at the tragedy that is DR Congo, through the eyes of a journalist who never afraid to go right to his sources. Read morePublished 7 months ago by John A. LoGiudice
Disappointed that the book heavily relies upon on personal relationships to tell its story. Some people might really enjoy that style, but it left me feeling like I had a narrow... Read morePublished 8 months ago by EF