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All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo Hardcover – April 29, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1996 the brutal civil war in Rwanda spilled into neighboring Congo, triggering a conflict that has seethed for 12 long years, claimed more lives than any since WWII and received little acknowledgment or aid from the international community. AP correspondent Mealer spent three years in this shattered land, and his book is a perceptive, empathetic, stomach-twisting presentation of the human condition during chaos. Mealer depicts war and peace as the mighty arms of a hurricane; war hurtles thousands of terrified people into the bush; intermittent peace lures the lost ones home. Individuals and institutions, indigenous and Western alike, are overwhelmed by the confluence of political collapse, economic disintegration, international indifference and a generalized military ineffectiveness that prevents resolution of the conflict on any terms. The vivid vignettes of combat and its aftermath portend a forever war, and the author highlights the impotence of grassroots solutions that render any deliverance ephemeral at best. Mealer's book is a quiet paean to the courage he has witnessed, and its final salute to the many proud people of Congo is as much eulogy as affirmation. (May)
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From Booklist

With vivid prose and compelling emotion, Mealer chronicles the four years he spent covering the fighting and genocide in Congo. In 1996, when fighting in Rwanda spilled into Congo, Mealer came to the troubled nation as a freelance writer with little knowledge of ethnic loyalties, looking for a translator to help him navigate the complexities of conflict. He went on to become Associated Press staff correspondent and recalls the inanity of the fighting, with rebels used as proxies to fight wars that had more to do with looting natural resources than settling ethnic disputes. Mealer offers historic background and vivid descriptions of crumbling postcolonial towns, “cowboy journalists,” crowded marketplaces, and blue-and-white Potemkin villages of UN peacekeepers. He recalls the feared Cobra commander of boy soldiers who held sway by the belief in magic, and the soldiers, dressed in wigs and prom gowns, committing unbelievable atrocities. He also reports his own “creeping emotional atrophy” as he is repulsed and then spellbound by the violence and by the courageous people who struggled to make sense of the fighting. --Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st U.S. Ed edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913452
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913455
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,682,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher Berend on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bryan Mealer brought to life a place that, sadly, most of us know little or care even less about. He takes far off characters in a far off war and gives them an easy familiarity. This book is not for the faint of heart--the war in Congo has killed millions through combat and disease, and Mealer does not shy away from its most brutal details. And yet, he does not revel in them either, as so many war correspondents haphazardly do. He simply writes what he sees. And what he sees is pretty amazing stuff. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Bryan Mealer has penned a brutal memoir of his three years as a reporter in the Congo, three years when teenage gunboys roamed the countryside and city streets, when UN peacekeeping forces faced mystical leaders operating from jungle mountaintops, when rebel militias and government forces alike pillaged their own nation. It was a horrible time in the history of a country that has seen little else for the last hundred years.

While Mealer writes about the bloody atrocities he witnessed, the real story he tells is about himself. He's drawn back to the Congo three times, apparently addicted to the extreme discomfort and random violence he endures. His travels cover nearly the entire country from the capital of Kinshasa to the mineral-rich southern provinces to the guerilla-infested eastern region where an alphabet-soup of militias, foreign armies, and UN forces fight a never-ending war of terror, rape, and mutilation. He rides a newly-reconstructed rail line and even follows Conrad's trail up the Congo River via barge. At one point, he and his adventure-junkie buddies take off through the jungle on bicycles.

While Mealer tells us the names and stories of many Congolese he meets along the way, he never really gives much insight into them as anything other than victims. He says as much when he reflects on his bicycle journey:

"...once in the jungle, my own basic needs and level of comfort had stood in the way of learning anything. I didn't even know my riders' last names or anything about their families. I'd simply been too exhausted and hungry to care. It wasn't my proudest moment, and even now, those last days on the trail leave a sting of regret.
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Format: Hardcover
Bryan Mealer has attempted to do the impossible: represent the suffering of a nation in the midst of war and for that I give him credit. However, as a White, Ameican middle class woman who lived in Eastern Congo in 2005-06, I find much of his book to be deeply problematic. This is not a historic account of the war; nor is it an attmept to unpack and examine the myriad factors that instigated the conflict and continue to cause unrest even now; rather, it seems to be one man's biased and often aggrandized account of his willingness to "risk his life" to bring us a litany of disconnected stories from "the heart of darkness." As a book, it is little more than a re-construction of Europeans as noble and technologcally-advanced and Congolese as savage and backward. This is an extremely dangerous myth to perpetuate via mainstream American media, a medium already saturated in representations of Africans as starving, disease-ridden and hopelessly corrupt. While the horror of the war is certainly a reality, Mealer ignores the complex political underpinnings which, if exposed in depth, would serve as a scathing indictment of countless Western governments, including our own. Gerard Prunier's seminal text on the Rwandan genocide is an example of what good war reporting can be. This book, on the other hand,is a sad reminder that the war in Congo DOES deserve press coverage. Just not the kind delivered here.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bryan Mealer’s memoir of the aftermath of the Second Congo War serves as an insight into a time, place, and event, which most readers will never have heard of, let alone experienced.

The book-market is flooded with stories that follow the basic plot line “white person goes to Africa, is appalled by Africans killing each other, writes about it to ‘raise awareness’/make money.” This book does, in a certain sense, follow that line with a notable difference: Mealer is an outstanding writer, and his words practically jump off the page. My preference when reading firsthand accounts of narrative non-fiction is to feel like I am experiencing it with the writer and Mealer’s outstanding prose does just that. The entertainment value alone was enough to make purchasing this book worthwhile. Meanwhile, the scenes he describes are both galling and interesting.
Mealer arrived in the DRC in the aftermath of one of the largest wars in the history of Africa, just prior to the withdrawal of the last of the occupying African armies. His work details the major events that engulfed the Congo from his entrance in 2003 to his exit in 2008. It is not a history of the main war nor the DRC (although both are briefly explained- it seems almost obligatory for modern DRC writers to mention the book “King Leopold’s Ghost”), and it is not intended to be so. What it is a snapshot of life in the DRC as its occupants, whether they be civilians, peacekeepers, aid workers, or militants, attempt to adjust to the violent aftermath of the Second Congo War.
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