Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa Hardcover – March 29, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews

See all 7 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$24.86 $4.10

2016 Book Awards
Browse award-winning titles. See all 2016 winners
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews


""Dancing in the Glory of Monsters" is riveting and certain to become essential reading for anyone looking to understand Central Africa." --The Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2001

"The best account [of the war] so far: more serious than several recent macho-war-correspondent travelogues, and more lucid and accessible than its nearest competitor." --Adam Hochschild, The New York Times, April 1, 2011

Kirkus, February 15, 2011
“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.”

“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.”
New York Times Book Review, April 3, 2011
“The best account [of the conflict in the Congo] so far; more serious than several recent macho-war-correspondent travelogues and more lucid and accessible than its nearest competitor…The task facing anyone who tires to tell this whole story is formidable, but Stearns by and large rises to it. He has lived in the country, and has done a raft of interviews with people who witnessed what happened before he got there…his picture is clear, made painfully real by a series of close-up portraits.”

Wall Street Journal
, March 2, 2011
“He is a cracking writer, with a wry sense of understatement…Mr. Stearns has spoken to everyone—villagers, child soldiers, Mobutu's commanders, Kabila's ministers, Rwandan intelligence officers. In these conversations he found gold, bringing clarity—and humanity—to 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.” 
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2011
“Stearns is more concerned with the perceptions, motivations, an actions of an eclectic mix of actors in the conflict—from 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.”
Washington Post, April 24, 2011
“Enter Jason Stearns. One of Congo’s most intrepid observers, he describes the war from the point of view of its perpetrators. He has tracked down and interviewed a rogue’s gallery of them. The resulting book, “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters,” is a tour de force, though not for the squeamish."
Economist, April 28, 2011
“[Stearns] is probably the most widely travelled and the most meticulous and empathetic observer of the war there. This is a serious book about the social and political forces behind one of the most violent clashes of modern times—as well as a damn good read.”
Global Post, April 26, 2011
“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.”
Telegraph, May 13, 2011
“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.”

The Spectator,
May 8, 2011
“(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.” 

Sunday Times, May 1, 2011
“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.

The Shepherd Express
“a vivid chronicle of the carnage that helps illuminate a tragedy too enormous to comprehend”
Financial Times, June, 24, 2011
“A serious, admirably balanced account of the crisis and the political and social forces behind it, providing vivid portraits of both victims and perpetrators and eyewitness accounts of the main events… perhaps the most accessible, meticulously researched and comprehensive overview of the Congo crisis yet.”

Book of the Year, “(a) serious account of the social and political forces behind one of the most violent clashes of modern times… by one of its most meticulous and empathetic observers.”

Times Literary Supplement
“(Dancing in the Glory of Monsters) is both readable and humane. (Jason Stearns) offers an effective narrative of the convoluted regional politics of a conflict that saw the rapid emergence of an alliance of neighbouring governments which gave their support to the rebel army recruited from DRC’s Tutsi population… While Stearns works hard to make his readers understand the violence, it is clear that he is both impassioned and outraged by this story of human suffering… This intelligent and moving book may help us understand some of the people of the Congo better, as humans, tragically liable to do evil rather than as monsters; but unsurprisingly, it provides no clear answer to intractable questions about the scope of international intervention.”

Midwest Book Review
“Any collection strong in African history and culture—as well as many a military collection—will find this a ‘must’”

About the Author

Jason Stearns has been working on the conflict in the Congo for the past ten years. In 2008 he was named by the UN Secretary General to lead a special UN investigation into the violence in the country. He has also worked for a Congolese human rights group, for the United Nations peacekeeping operation, and for the International Crisis Group. He is currently completing a PhD at Yale University.

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (March 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586489291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586489298
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Didaskalex VINE VOICE on April 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"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 ›
Comment 62 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
How best to make sense of Congo's enduring crisis, a tale of daunting political complexity and extraordinary cruelty? Many writers have tried, for no other African country captivates the western literary imagination as much as Congo. This fascination long precedes Joseph Conrad, who indelibly described King Leopold's Congo Free State over a century ago. But faithful subjects do not good art make, and most western writing on Congo is unreadable or, at best, unbearable.

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 ›
1 Comment 32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Several thoughts come to mind when reflecting on Jason K. Stearns' epic Dancing In The Glory of Monsters, The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, but "dancing" doesn't figure into any of those thoughts, and monsters are writ large, center stage. And make no mistake; we're talking fiendishly horrific monsters, almost inhuman, as if drawn from a dictionary definition: "Anything horrible from...wickedness, cruelty or commission of extraordinary or horrible crimes; a vile creature..." So the reader should be advised, some of the stories are very disturbing.

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 ›
17 Comments 98 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews