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I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation Paperback – June 13, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Much like Wrong's In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz (2001), covering the reign of Zaire's brutal dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, this book taps at the world's conscience, asking who is to blame for the suffering and neglect of postcolonial African states; it takes Eritrea as case study—and victim. A veteran Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, Wrong writes in a pointedly digressive style full of narrative side roads that accommodate a daunting level of geographical and historical detail. Historical highlights include a colorful profile of the late 19th-century writer and Italian parliamentarian Ferdinando Marini that draws on his extensive memoirs about his tenure as the first civil governor of the region as an Italian colony. The early 1960s conflict, occupation and independence of this small neighbor to Ethiopia also make for a terrible, gripping story, including border disputes and bloody war with Ethiopia. A complicated history so punctuated with violence is not exactly easy to read about, but the author's extraordinary grasp of the postcolonial psyche and tormented national identity of this country makes it fascinating. Agent, Joy Harris.(June 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Wrong, an Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, is no stranger to African politics. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz (2001) covered Zaires brutal history; this book attempts to put Eritrea in the public conscience. While chronicling each stage of the nations history, Wrong creates lively profiles and successfully dissects geopolitical rivalries. Highly readable, the most compelling parts address the colonial and postwar eras, when the U.N. failed to act against Ethiopian repression. Other pages, including her discussion of the presence of U.S. military personnel, received mixed reviews. Some critics even wondered if Wrongs "True Believer" optimism didnt create a simplistic morality play. But all told, I Didnt Do It For You is an important book, one that will help put Eritrea back on the world map.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book's title comes from a story, apocryphal one hopes, of a British captain leading his war-weary men into the capital city of Asmara after the battle of Keren, which, although little-known, was among the toughest and most brutal battles of World War II. He was greeted by an old Eritrean woman, enthusiastically ululating in celebration of her country's liberation from Italian Fascist rule. The captain interrupted her high-pitched shrilling with a savage "I didn't do it for you, n****r."
That too is a theme of Wrong's book: Nothing, absolutely nothing, that the world's powers -- from Italy, to Great Britain, to the United States, to Russia, to Israel -- have done in Eritrea since 1880 has been for the Eritreans. Instead, Eritrea has been a venue for colonialism, pillaging, and the exercise of Cold War and Middle East realpolitik, and a pimple on the rump of Ethiopia.
Essentially, I DIDN'T DO IT FOR YOU is a history of Eritrea, and because Eritrea has been so closely engaged with its neighbor Ethiopia, also a history of Ethiopia. Ethiopia believes that Eritrea should be part of it, which, of course, would give it access to the Red Sea. By and large, Wrong rebuts Ethiopia's arguments. Yet from 1950 to 1990 Ethiopia exercised varying degrees of control over Eritrea, and from 1962 to 1992 Eritrea fought a bitter, heroic, and ultimately successful War of Independence.
That War of Independence -- as well as its aftermath, first tantalizingly promising but now sadly depressing (Eritrea now is essentially a one-party country presided over by Isaias Afwerki, a dictator for all intents and purposes) -- is the central episode of the book. The major secondary ones consist of Eritrea being buffeted about by the Italians, then the British, and later the Americans. In yet another instance I learn how my country's post-World War II foreign policy was shameful and misguided.
Admirable in many ways, I DIDN'T DO IT FOR YOU could have been better. It is too hasty and unnecessarily confusing. Seemingly containing everything that Wrong ever reported or researched in a decade of covering Eritrea, the book is too long for the general reader. Moreover, while briskly written, it is riddled with threadbare clichés. (No book should contain more than one "turning a blind eye"; this one contains four or five, as well as a couple instances of "falling on deaf ears".)
P.S.: I bought my copy of the book sight unseen from an on-line book dealer. It is boldly signed in the front by Stanley March 3. He apparently followed a practice I too follow whenever possible, as pasted inside the rear cover is a copy of the "New York Times" review of the book. Ah, the caprices of the second-hand book market.
Well written, dry, witty, and insightful as to the human and political relationships that form this nation, it has served as my primer. I will read more on Eritrea, but doubt that it will be as enjoyable.
Excellent job. I, too, hope to ride that train one day.