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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A miraculous debut novel; Not since Ali and Foreman in 1974 will Congo be so vivid to the world., January 16, 2014
This review is from: Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo (Hardcover)
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What is a good reason to buy and read a book? Well let us look into that.

The Congo has been an invisible yet critical part of Africa to America for centuries: the slave ships, The Golden Triangle, the Belgian Occupation. Lumumba, Mboto, Kablia; we continue to buy diamonds, we fill our cell phones and laptops with the precious metals from The Congo’s earth. And now we learn that uranium is being mined illegally and sold to North Korea and Iran; that the land on which the mining was done is land that is raped as savagely as the people who live on it. Barbara Kingsolver forever changed The Congo for us in her epic literature achievement “The Poisonwood Bible” where she took fact and history and wove a fictional story around about a missionary family form Georgia in Congo under the election and assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Now we are facing another masterpiece by Anjan Sundaram called “Stringer” in which a journalist who walked away from near completion of his Yale PhD in Mathematics travels to Congo because he needed to see for himself. He became a stringer for the AP and he reported on everything he saw. He won a journalism prize for his reporting on the Pygmy tribes who, though nomadic, were protected such as American Indians, but they sold their rights to land for salt and flour generations ago. As such we have a reporter’s account of the most recent, and clearly fixed, election and ensuing war between Bemba supporters (for the people) and Kabila supporters (for the seated dictator) in the still controlled and abused Congo during the summer of 2006. If you read ANYTHING about Congo that summer it was written by Anjan Sundaram since almost every other reporter in Central Africa got on the last available planes and scurried to a safer place from which to report.

Thus this book: “Stringer” to tell the entire truth of how the world continues to rape Congo. The truth is appalling, particularly when we hear of horrific atrocities and the American involvement, names as high up as George W. Bush and “Condeleeza”, or how confused we become regarding the UN, thinking all along that this was an honest organization; not caring how many of the Congolese are killed and left to be massacred, it’s all about the riches buried beneath her soil or the ivory that walks upon it’s lands or the now men and women who walk around missing hands because it has become tradition to cut off the hands of mine workers- mostly Congolese- and leave their bloody hands in a basket at the top of the mine to keep the miners, who are chained together, warned not to steal or malinger. These people earn a few francs a day. They are sent into the mines doped up so as not to have control of their minds.

We live in a Congolese home with this reporter; we travel dangerous streets where he is robbed of thousands of dollars and beaten, where he is witness to riots started by gangs as well as the government. We learn what it is to live and grow up in a dictatorship- how the people almost consider the ruler to be a god and the horror he spreads is marked as being “the way things go.” We are shown the death of millions, the rapes of many millions. We see the way many outside countries (the United States chief among them) who simply claim land as their own in order to strip the Congo of her resources.

We no longer live in a world with invisible corners. There are far too many Smartphone’s and tweets and many ways for a single individual- even in Iran and North Korea (to whom the uranium mines are selling their product secretly as the miners dig up this yellow cake with their bare hands) to hide their secrets. In the opening of Kingsolver’s “Poisonwood Bible” she writes, “I imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened…the forest eats itself and lives forever.” The only comparison between “The Poisonwood Bible” and “Stringer” is the setting, the politics and this powerful line penned in the first paragraph by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver is speaking about all the living things in the forest that comes to life by killing other living things and Sundaram speaks of the Congolese- those individuals living in ghettos generation after generation while the Belgians, The Americans, The French, the Chinese, The Russians and almost every prolific country on the planet stages war on the land of the Congo and uses its natives as pawns. The living coming to life by killing other living things.

Anjan Sundaram stayed there in the War Zones for the election of July 2006. He writes of the excitement as Bemba seems to win, district after district. He writes of being called, as all other journalists, to the city center where as soon as the current dictator was announced as the winner a war broke out. And Sundaram was the only reporter who remained trapped there because he had been staying with a Congolese family and his passport and travel papers were miles away behind many road blacks, burning buildings, snipers and RPG’s. The book ends as his plane lifts off of the tarmac. His story and the truth about Congo is told here, in truth, in entirety and with the harsh realism of a journalists naked truth. The more horrifying a reality, the less decorative adjectives and adverbs one needs and Sundaram knows this. He is a man quite capable of writing a remarkable novel, of capturing emotion ns and relaying them to others on the page, but his skills as a journalist are just as remarkable. The man is at the start of a remarkable career.

If only we, as a populace in full, would listen to his words.

The secrets are right here in this captivating and exciting book. The question is what will we do with the information? With our own country dealing with governmental crisis of espionage will the people demand that investigations of crimes against humanity be made regarding The United States against the Congo? Perhaps not. This may well be why no one has done a damned thing about North and South Sudan. Will Sundaram’s book leap onto the Best Seller’s List (as it deserves to) and garner a collection of literary and journalism prizes (as it most certainly will) while having no impact on the population of the West to actually DO anything. After all, as is made very clear, it is to our best interest to continue to rape and pillage Africa, just as been the case for the past fifteen hundred years and more. The Roman’s used Egyptians as slaves. The Egyptians used Hebrews as slaves. Muslim Shiites are the funding backbone to all of the Congo, a country nearly the size of the Continent of Europe with no idea of an accurate population census. Many of the small hills that dot the Central and Eastern portions of the Congo have turned out to be mass graves.

Anjan Sundaram risked his life to visit Congo, to see it through the 2006 election and the subsequent war and barely escaped with his life and his story. His story is here, for us, printed with honesty and without fanfare. What we choose to do with his storey is key. Some will simply not bother to read it- not my interest; sounds too inte4nse; I don’t like non-fiction- and some will read it and then feeling that “I am only one person” will do nothing. But the fact is simple. One person CAN do something. Tell others about the book. Pass your copy on. Buy a copy for the head of the History and English departments at your local public schools. Make sure it’s in your public library. In this way, Sundaram’s quest will not only have changed him for life, but it will change as many others as possible.

I can’t think of a better reason to buy and read a book.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 8, 2014 12:33:39 PM PST
Bg Rawlence says:
Hi there, if you're interested in the problems of the DRC you might appreciate this other journey of the east of the country. My book, Radio Congo: Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa's Deadliest War

All the best,

Ben
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