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Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo Hardcover – January 7, 2014


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Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo + The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair (African Arguments) + Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385537751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385537759
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #668,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sundaram left the calm, logical world of mathematics and a job offer from Goldman Sachs for the chaos of the Congo and the uncertainties of journalism. The combination was unpromising, as “few cared . . . for news” of the Congo. Then he lucked into a position as a stringer with the Associated Press, reporting on harrowing struggles to exploit wealthy metal reserves, conflicts between the militia and rebels, political corruption, street riots by bands of wild boys, and insane inflation that sent Kinshasa citizens on a “rampage of purchases.” Surviving paycheck to paycheck, Sundaram lived with a local Congo family and navigated the worlds of the embassy, foreign journalists, and the Indian community. On a daring trip upriver, he risked his life to interview a warlord fighting for control of valuable territory and stayed in Kinshasa to report on postelection chaos as other reporters fled. Excerpts from his notebooks chronicle personal reflections as he struggles to learn how to report from an unruly land, harboring doubts and misgivings and a feverish desperation to make sense of one of the deadliest places in the world. A breathtaking look at a troubled nation exploited by greedy forces within and without. --Vanessa Bush

Review

Praise for Stringer:

"A remarkable book about the lives of people in Congo."
—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

"This is a book about a young journalist's coming of age, and a wonderful book it is, too."
—Ted Koppel, NPR

"An excellent debut book of reportage on the Congo."
Fareed Zakaria, CNN

"Books by journalists usually keep the focus outward, but Sundaram has more of a novelist's interior sensibility and a talent for describing anxiety and ennui. Readers may be tempted to compare him to Conrad and Naipaul, but he has a strong, unique style all his own."
Kirkus Reviews

"Excerpts from his notebooks chronicle personal reflections as he struggles to learn how to report from an unruly land, harboring doubts and misgivings and a feverish desperation to make sense of one of the deadliest places in the world. [It's] a breathtaking look at a troubled nation exploited by greedy forces within and without."
Booklist

"The author skillfully captures the smallest details of life in a destitute land, blending the sordid history of Congo with his battle to forge a career in a troubled and forsaken country."
Publishers Weekly

"The authenticity is palpable."
Library Journal

“Anjan Sundaram’s prose is so luscious, whether he’s writing about mathematics or colonial architecture or getting mugged, that the words come alive and practically dance on the page. Stringer, his first book, about a year-long journey to Congo; reading it made me feel like I’d follow him anywhere in the world.”
—Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood

“What a debut! It's not often one reads a book of reportage from a difficult foreign country with such fever-dream immediacy, such tense intelligence, and such an artful gift for story-telling. Here is a commanding new writer who comes to us with the honesty, the intensity, and the discerning curiosity of the young Naipaul.”
—Pico Iyer, author of The Lady and the Monk, The Global Soul, and The Man Within My Head 
 
“In lucid and searing prose, and with bracing self-awareness, Anjan Sundaram explores a country that has long been victimized by the ever-renewed greeds of the modern world. Stringer is one of those very rare books of journalism that transcend their genre—and destiny as ephemera—and become literature.”
—Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire and Temptations of the West
 
"With an incisive intellect and senses peeled raw, Sundaram takes us on a mesmerizing journey through the vibrant shambles of modern Congo. This is that rare work of reportage that achieves true literary greatness, and it can stand proudly next to V.S. Naipaul or Ryszard Kapuscinski."
—Richard Grant, author of God's Middle Finger 

Stringer is an extraordinary work of reportage. Anjan Sundaram is the Indian successor to Kapuscinski.”
—Basharat Peer, author of Curfewed Night

"A fascinating, breathtaking work of reporting and introspection from a writer whose next work will be eagerly awaited.”
—Time Out Mumbai

Customer Reviews

What is a good reason to buy and read a book?
David Seaman
It was like a few well-described trees but no forest, and it's hard to get into a book when you don't know what's going on.
Joanna
That's one of the big messages you get from Anjan Sundaram's book about reporting from war-torn and poverty-stricken Congo.
N. B. Kennedy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By N. B. Kennedy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
War reporting is a glamorous job, right? Wrong! That's one of the big messages you get from Anjan Sundaram's book about reporting from war-torn and poverty-stricken Congo.

Mr. Sundaram was a Yale graduate with a promising future in mathematics, when he increasingly felt he was missing out on something. "The beauty in America and in mathematics had become cloying," he writes. "In America, I was beginning to feel trapped and suffocated, and removed from the world." So, apropos of nothing, he decides to become a journalist and report from a depleted and desperate African country. He enters the country not even knowing how he will support himself. Through a series of fortunate events, he becomes a "stringer" -- a freelancer -- for the Associated Press. It's not lucrative, but it's something.

It's a tough life. Mr. Sundaram lives in a sort of slum with an African family. He shares a room with rats and mosquitoes (and whatever female wanders in to stake a claim on his life). The plumbing is unspeakable and he has only a fan to cool himself. And even that gets appropriated when the family decides it needs it more than he does. The city he's in, Kinshasa, is a dark and deadly place. He is robbed at gunpoint and tension is building as an election approaches. Riots are hinted at. "When this country explodes, you take care, my friend," says a local businessman. "We'll kill all the foreigners and burn this city."

The appalling conditions and the culture shock take its toll. Mr. Sundaram seems perpetually exhausted, drained of energy and on the verge of contracting malaria. He is lonely and depressed.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought this book was okay, but I feel it was a bit oversold. This is an interesting and descriptive account of an out-of-his-element rookie reporter navigating dangerous and strange surroundings - but I feel like his original 2005 reporting (which I Googled and read) is more interesting than this memoir of the life he was leading at the time.

I don't see any "feverish desperation" (besides him actually having a fever at one point). Living in the Congo was certainly a challenge, but to me, the craziness the book description and advance reviews promised did not come to pass. It's tough, yes, but I've read a lot of books about rough places.

The final flaw, before I get to what I liked, is there are not enough Congolese represented in close, personal fashion. The people who get the closest look are fellow foreigners, and other Indians, and while his Congolese landlord is a constant character, the rest of the country's actual population sometimes seems too much like window dressing, and not real people - or they exist to move the 'plot' while never being participants in the story. Again, his original reporting does the story of the Congolese much better justice.

But - part of my lackluster opinion is because I went in with a different expectation. So I will try to steer potential readers in the right direction.

What you will get from this book is an up-close look at what a chaotic culture the Congo is to navigate for anybody not at the very top of the country's food chain. Beset by violence, political intrigue, and massive corruption, the city of Kinshasa is essentially an ungovernable conglomeration of chaos.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Raghu Nathan on January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Right in the first chapter of the book, the author writes:"I had left for Congo in a sort of rage, a searing emotion. The feeling was of being abandoned, of acute despair. The world had become too beautiful. The beauty was starting to cave in on itself—revealing a core of crisis. One had nothing to hold on to......Part of my desire was to see a crisis. I had lived in man’s genius for so long, I wanted to know our destructive capacities.”. The author was a young 22- year old Mathematics Graduate in Yale at this time. As I read this, I thought, 'Wow, won't he be chewed out for saying this as one more journalist, gawking at Africa's tragedies?". On reflection, I thought, "After all, the Polish journalist and Yale alumni Ryszard Kapuściński, to whom the author is compared to nowadays, also wandered in Africa in the 1960s and witnessed coups, mass killings and communist revolutions and wrote about them to great acclaim. So, why not Anjan Sundaram?"

Anjan Sundaram grew up in Dubai until the age of ten, completed his schooling in the sheltering environment of Rishi Valley in Bangalore, India and then went to Yale for Graduate studies in Mathematics. Soon, he decides to experience man's destructive capacities by going to the Democratic Republic of Congo where nearly four million people have been killed in the war for its minerals and metals and other wealth. He reaches Kinshasa, stays in the poor neighbourhood of Victoire with a Congolese family, gets robbed at gunpoint soon after and starts experiencing the country up close and personal. He manages to get a job as a stringer, reporting for AP, and travels into the conflict zones in the north of the country, sending dispatches on the killings, kidnappings and on the abject poverty of the country.
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