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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
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99 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As a fellow Zimbabwean living on foreign shores, having read Peter Godwin's The Fear I am at a loss for words. Partly because the subject matter is so bitterly painful, there is no coherent way to respond to the way the grip of power has squeezed out such a horrendous toll of human suffering, but also, no doubt, by the manner in which, despite harrowing detail, all of which he chronicles with a poignant deftness, the author still manages to transport me, with yearning, to this beautiful land. Despite the political savagery that has taken a similar toll on the wildlife, trees, rivers and mountains, Zimbabwe's haggard remnants are still proudly bursting forth. So much so that my childhood memories are keenly awakened and I feel a solid lump of sorrow for Zim's fateful journey. And I, who live in relative luxury many miles away, aware of the hard times being faced by family and friends, have imagined a subtler version of Godwin's account, probably to quieten my own fear of what has become of my home.
They call people like me, one of multitudes of Zimbabweans who live abroad, the diaspora. I knew we were of some assistance to those at home in a way by sending foreign currency and goods from time to time, but reading this book, I fear we have grossly underestimated the conditions faced by our compatriots and our absence and failure to participate is perhaps an indictment against us? I ask myself why haven't we, as a people, well educated, talented, inherently dignified, though of humble bearing, and here I speak not for myself, but the many Zimbabweans I have encountered in my life, why have we not prevented the outrage that is modern day Zim? This has troubled me over the years as I have gone about raising my children and the daily grind of my comfortable western life. But the answer is really not that complicated, it is black and white as documented in this book. The insane trajectory that took my home from it's sunny post- independence to these dark and treacherous days, is one founded on a bedrock
of fear. A groove as deep and ugly as those left by the marauding clear cutters and miners who rob Zimbabwe of its abundant fauna and tear the pristine countryside apart at its seams. I don't despair for Zimbabwe yet. I still have hope. But The Fear has
reminded me to re-examine my good fortune and consider what it is I can do to make this world a better place. This is, I think,
what any good book should do. For some lighter reading on Zimbabwe, go to: The Summoner: (The Dominic Grey Novels) (Volume 1)
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
You'd be forgiven for mistaking the work of Peter Godwin for fiction. The world he describes in arrestingly beautiful prose, peopled with characters possessed of heroic bravery and breathtaking evil, would seem a plausible backdrop for a morality play on the corruption absolute power brings. But this story is all too real, and we ignore it at our own peril. The Fear is an exquisite, heart-rending, and unforgettable tribute to a people for whom the love of country and the struggle for liberty come at the ultimate price.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A gripping account of the plight of the citizens of Zimbabwe, whose steadfast commitment to determine their own future unleashes a murderous campaign of terror at the hands of their own president. To hear the first-hand accounts of Robert Mugabe's victims, whose courage and resolve remain unbroken against the bleakest of odds, is intensely humbling. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, this book gives a much-needed voice to these brave people.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The employment rate is 6%. The country is the world leader in the number of orphans per capita, nearly a million of them are AIDS orphans. Inflation is beyond calculation with everyday items costing in the trillions. Up to a third of its citizens have fled the country to escape the rapes, tortures, imprisonments, and killings that are now commonplace. Its government is widely recognized as one of the most corrupt and violent on earth. Its leader, now the oldest national leader on the planet, lost an election but refuses to relinquish power as those who oppose him risk death, imprisonment and unspeakable torture for themselves and their families.

This is Zimbabwe, the former Rhodesia, where Peter Godwin returns to the land of his birth after Mugabe's defeat to witness and chronicle the current state of the country at great risk to himself. Mugabe has a long memory, doesn't forgive , and an unwelcome Peter Godwin is on Mugabe's long list of enemies.

Godwin introduces us to the Fear, a way of life and mindset so horrible and unspeakable that it becomes palpable and takes on the identity of a surreal all pervasive entity that suffocates and strangles the country.

The author also introduces us to friends and enemies alike as through his eyes we witness the horrendous atrocities and entrenched injustices that are Zimbabwe today. Mercifully the 41 chapters are brief and brisk for one needs time to catch one's breath between chapters to comprehend the seemingly impossible inhumanity and brutality of Robert Mugabe's supporters and militia.

Amidst a land of breathtaking natural beauty and a former grandeur fallen into decay and disrepair are images difficult to read about, yet alone witness, experience, and suffer.
There are the hospitals filled with victims of Mugabe's thugs, places with limited resources, occasional utilities, and superhuman caregivers.

There's the bizarre scene of a self-appointed pretender bishop Kunonga battling the real Anglican bishop Bakare with his crosier.

There's the unreal scene of woman gang raped by boorish Mugabe soldiers next to the body of her dead husband and decapitated twin child as her surviving twin child cries and witnesses.

And then there are the prisons, cesspools of humanity with cells packed with starving, sick prisoners; the captive are victims of brutality and perpetual torment. Prisons are filled with the stench of filth, of human waste, and of decomposing dead bodies often heaped one upon the other in the next room, wretched fluids often leaking under the door and into the cells. Prisons are places where men are stripped of their clothing, their dignity, and their humanity.

Yet within this country in ruins we witness a human spirit that refuses to capitulate. Those who have lost homes, children, spouses continue defiantly to resist the Mugabe onslaught. The reader witnesses many acts of kindness and bravery by Zimbabweans with no hint of the racially driven practices of Robert Mugabe or the Ian Smith regime preceding him. Morgan Tsvangirai, the "winner" of the political contest with Mugabe, could easily walk away from the madness, but continues on despite the "accidental" death of his wife in a car wreck that he survived.

The Fear is a book of horrific events tempered by the impossible bravery, fortitude, and resilience of its remaining citizens, black and white together standing up to the malevolence that is The Fear.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As an early member of the Zimbabwe diaspora, I'm addicted to accounts of contemporary Zimbabwe. Peter Godwin's books chart the course of Zimbabwe's modern history from the civil ware of the 70s, the Matabeleland genocide of the 80s. And now, in his latest book, The Fear, he brings witness to the decades of fear and economic collapse. His is a light into the murky new Dark Age of modern Zimbabwe.

Godwin's stories giving witness to a regime pursuing a war of terror against its own people are at the same time harrowing and inspiring. Inspiring because of the exemplary courage of the opponents of the Mugabe tyranny.

Godwin's book is a documentary and parts of it are in essence a list of crimes with names, dates and events, perhaps intended one day to become evidence against the perpetrators of the cruelty and violence in an international court, or one may hope. This interferes somewhat with the narrative, but Godwin's lucid style and evident love of the people of his native country overcome this.

With brutal dictatorships being overturned in the Middle East with the encouragement of the West, is it too much to hope that zimbabwe may follow? The courage, humour and resilience of the Zimbabweans deserve nothing less.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a tough book to read because the description of the injuries and the violence that Mugabe's thugs imparted upon the MDC supporters is so vivid, but I couldn't put it down. It is a very sensitive portrayal of the brave victims and leaders of the opposition and their families, as well as a very sad one of the devastation of what was once a beautiful country. It left me not only in awe of those daring to stand up to the tyranny of Mugabe's henchmen but also in awe of Peter Godwin who has risked his life to "bear witness" so that the rest of us can start to comprehend the horrors that are happening in Zimbabwe.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Short Version:

"This a book by a brave man about people who are braver still. Peter Godwin brings us closer to the filth of the Mugabe tyranny than is bearable and portrays with subtlety, authority, and respect those who, against all odds and at the cost of unimaginable suffering, continue the resistance against it. Their courage is the stuff of myth, and in Godwin they have found their chronicler."
David Rieff

Long Version:

Some books are tough to read. Some we need to read. Peter Godwin's newest, The Fear, is one of those books. By far one of the most haunting books I have ever read, this work chronicles the fate of Zimbabwe's opposition after their victory, in a democratic election, to oust dictator Robert Mugabe after his thirty years of despotic rule. For their bravery in standing up and saying, "No more!", followers of the MDC party faced torture, terror, intimidation, and death.

Right about the time that I felt as if this would be a book that I could not finish Peter returned to his wife and two young sons in New York, and he was feeling much the same way. While playing dinos with his boy he envisioned a chart hanging on the end of a young torture victim's bed, upon which the nurses had put a fierce-some T-rex sticker-a symbol of the boy's spirit. The dichotomy of his sons' lives and those of the children in the land of his birth overwhelmed him.

In every act, every conversation, he flashed back to his homeland, and in doing so, he realized that he didn't write this book for himself-he wrote it for the thousands of victims of thirty years of Mugabe rule in his beloved Zimbabwe. This was a story he was called to tell, for the simple reason that he could. He must bear witness to The Fear, bring the truth of it to the attention of the outside world, and bring hope to those actively engaged in their country's fight for freedom from tyranny.

Knowing that Peter Godwin is a print journalist, I fully expected excellent reporting, and he definitely delivered. The book is well organized and any digressions from chronology are clear and well transitioned. Despite dealing with a huge cast of players, he gave enough information to remind the reader where they had met a person previously, and no person ever felt extraneous. Some levity is injected into an otherwise dark narrative in the form of an almost gallowsish humor. What I did not expect was the formidable strength of his ability to paint Zimbabwe in my mind-her stunning natural beauty, economic free-fall, collapsed civil structure, and complex society were vibrant within his prose.

Above all else, this book is about the triumph of humanity in the most wretched of circumstances. It is the story of people who stand, in the face of a reality so horrific that most of us can not even apprehend it, and refuse to be silenced, even unto death. Please read their story. Let Peter's decision to write this difficult tale gain traction in your ability to share your reading experience with others you know. The fight in Zimbabwe is ongoing. If democracy is to prevail-and the suffering of thousands of torture victims be vindicated-the world must listen and speak and stand.

Star ranking: absolutely five stars
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Every day when we wake up, we quickly take stock of our surroundings. Is light pouring through cracks in the bedroom curtains? Where is the end of the bed, so I don't bang my foot against it in the dark again? How long do I have to snooze before I absolutely must get ready for work? These are the types of questions that plague many people each morning. Yet for others, those unlucky enough to be living under the rule of a corrupted and violent government, the only question each morning is more like, "Will I live to see another day?" History has shown many times before how the oppressed can quickly become the oppressor once power sinks its claws in and Zimbabwe, under the rule of President Robert Mugabe, now stands at the pinnacle, waving a flag boasting leadership and unity on one side, but the other a desperate cry for help. Which one will the world respond to?

The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe is a harrowing travelogue by Peter Godwin, detailing his trip back to his homeland after an election, which should have ousted their despotic leader, but instead unleashed a paranoid and chaotic fury unlike anything seen before. Peter moves in and out of danger, trying to document as clearly as he can the abuses and tragedies inflicted upon the people who dared to challenge the status quo and spoke their mind in this fledgling democracy.

The set up to this barbarism was a recent national election for Zimbabwe in 2008, where Robert Mugabe, the country's longtime president, lost to Morgan Tsvangirai in bogus political theater gone wrong (or right, depending on which side you were on). Mugabe and all of his generals had the opportunity to walk away with plumped up golden parachutes and immunity from any number of crimes they committed during his reign. Instead, the madman showed his true colors, not the green, yellow, red and black stripes of their flag, but rather the green of greed and the red of rage towards those who voted against him. With the assistance of his generals, already hardened by previous extreme civil wars, and brutal war veterans who saw Mugabe as the savior and bringer of their true freedom, he set about intimidating, torturing and killing anyone who spoke out against his legitimacy as the one true ruler. Untold numbers have already died in the struggle for true democracy there and even more are living with the physical and mental scarring left behind by roving gangs of power-hungry war vets and brainwashed youth who have been taught torture and death dealing as a civil trade.

Godwin does an amazing job detailing out these horrors, while posting them up against the background of the natural beauty and serenity Zimbabwe can hold underneath. The country, itself awash with the blood of wars between the tribes and now overflowing once again with the bodies of its people, still manages to capture a sense of timelessness and purity in their countryside and jungles. Godwin tries to show that side of his home and prove that keeping those people and their traditions alive, outside the despotism of Mugabe, is truly something worth fighting for, possibly dying for.

The examples and scenarios of intimidation and murder unleashed by Mugabe go far beyond the pale of human rights abuses, causing the international community to balk at recognizing him as the true leader. The opposing party (known as the MDC) has refused to give up and endured years of assassinations and trumped up prison stays in conditions rivaling those in medieval times. Today, you will find a GNU (Government of National Unity) set up in Zimbabwe consisting of members of Mugabe's cabinet and those of the MDC, but Godwin pulls back the sheen of stability to show the fallacy of this tenuous brotherhood of man. Heads of the opposition only agreed to stop the continued bloodshed and in hopes of staving off outright civil war, but with a new election coming around the bend, people are once again worried they will be targeted for their votes. Towns loyal to the MDC fear they will once again be burned, looted, pillaged and their women raped by roving gangs of Mugabe conscripts.

The Fear was the nickname given by the people to the blanket of intimidation laid over the country by Mugabe and the book reads like something from hundreds of years ago when countries were conquered and re-settled by vicious landlords. Yet, when you let it sink in that these horrible actions are being carried out even to this very day, it chills even the most disconnected reader. It is an eye-opening look into a world many of us would never know, or care to know, exists, but once you see it, you will not be able to look away. For those who do read the book and want to help the cause, there are various ways listed out on Godwin's website.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I read this book because I thoroughly enjoyed Godwin's previous works about his life in Zimbabwe. This book has a sadder and darker tone even compared to his past couple works. At the time he wrote this book, the Mugabe regime had largely done its terrible damage to Godwin's family so this book has a less introspective and autobiographical feel to it than in his previous works. He also spends a considerable amount of time and detail thoroughly documenting the horrors inflicted on the people of Zimbabwe by the Mugabe and his accomplices. Godwin is clearly using his book to not only spread the word about what is going on in the country, but as a method of documenting the crimes of Mugabe and his followers for potential action if and when Zimbabwe becomes free. This means the book can be very hard to read at times because it frequently goes into gruesome detail about the murder and torture inflicted on the opposition to Mugabe.

As with his other works, this book is beautifully written and Godwin's gift for writing shows consistently throughout. An amazing byproduct of this book along with his others is how they show the beauty of the both Zimbabwe and its people. Even though he's describing the horrible downward trajectory of the county's history as seen through the prism of his family's experience, he still manages to communicate how wonderful the people of Zimbabwe truly are in a manner that makes me wish to visit the country someday to experience it for myself.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This ought to be required reading for every citizen on the planet because until the world understands the depth of the torture that Mr. Goodwin so very bravely sought out to write about, Mr. Mugabe and his co-monsters will continue on to not just kill but mutilate and torture an entire nation while destroying the farms and businesses that were in place when he took the "throne." Yes, Ian Smith had to go as did his racist world view but the very last thing Rhodesia needed was a truly insane tyrant. They in effect traded a migraine for a brain tumor.

Though Canadian born, I live in the US and tend to be aq pacifist but after hearing - not seeing - the performance of the Navy Seals when they captured bin Laden, one has to wonder why that US is wasting zillions of dollars bombing the middle east when the final result will show all we gained was more ill will than we had going in.

A prudent use of the Seals to take out Mr. Mugabe and his closest mudering friends, would make so much more sense than Iraq, Afghanistan and Libyia put together. No, there is no oil in Zimbabwe but there are human beings who literally are being gored to death every day and if we collectively continue to ignore it, this will be on our plate as a reminder of just what we didn't do when we could have with relative ease.

Mr. Goodwin is beyond brave for taking very serious risks day after day as he moved around Zimbabwe to talk with and meet the opposition leaders as well as so many of the maimed. Often they were one and the same person. But Mr. Goodwin shows that rare sort of courage that makes us all feel so inadequate but he is kind enough to suggest ways we can help from afar.

Read this book because you will never forget it. It isn't the first example obviously of man's inhumanity toward man but it's a current story that can be addressed right now if we have the will to see King Mugabe tumble forever from this earth to what after reading this book, I hope will be a berth in hell next to Hitler's and Pol Pot's and Stalin and Mao and all the others.
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